With all that South Florida has to offer, it is easy to forget that nature is also on the list. Amid an ever-growing population and constant land development, South Florida has managed to set aside large areas of natural land for the dual purpose of conservation and recreation. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) oversees these natural areas known as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) with the goal of protecting wildlife and habitat. The efforts of game wardens and other FWC personnel have allowed white-tailed deer, American alligators and wild turkey to rebound in population; additionally, regulations have safeguarded our sources of drinking water.
The trade-off for intense conservation efforts is the strict regulation of hunting and fishing harvests. Hunters and fishermen cannot simply catch their species of choice at any time and in any manner; to the contrary, there are designated seasons for hunting and fishing particular species, and prohibitions on certain baits and methods of capture. Failure to abide by regulations pertaining to fish and wildlife can result in heavy fines, the loss of recreational licenses, and even criminal liability.
In Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Wildlife Management Areas are treasure troves of game. Correspondingly, these WMAs are also laden with game wardens ready to catch rule violators. Below is a list of the most popular WMAs in Palm Beach and Martin Counties and some common violations associated with each one.
Located in northwestern Martin County just 15 miles west of Stuart, the Allapattah Flats WMA is a habitat for a variety of birds as well as game animals. In particular, the area is full of sandhill cranes, white-tailed deer and wild turkey. The latter two species are the most notorious for triggering FWC violations in Allapattah. Common violations in this WMA include:
- Hunting deer out of season
- Hunting turkey out of season
- Use of hunting equipment or dogs outside of designated dates and times
- Entry and exit of WMA from non-designated entrances
- Release of hunting dogs
- Unlawful use of firearms or trapping devices
All of the above violations are criminal in nature with varying degrees of potential penalties, including high fines and even jail time.
The DuPuis WMA is a natural area spread across northwestern Palm Beach and southwestern Martin counties. It boasts a nature center, nature trail, butterfly garden, an equestrian center, and campsites. This WMA provides excellent opportunities for stargazing, seasonal hunting, hiking, and horseback riding among beautiful wet prairies and cypress domes.
Similar to Allapattah, wild turkey are prevalent – and so are hunting violations. While the temptation to hunt gobblers or bearded turkeys out of season in DuPuis is shared by many, the law doesn’t forgive out-of-season hunting of this protected species. Hunting turkey out of season is a criminal offense.
It is also easy to make the mistake of entering or exiting DuPuis from a place that is not legally permissible. Some hunters get lost in the wetlands across county lines and end up in unauthorized places. Unfortunately, this innocent mistake can lead to a criminal charge.
Without question, the most well-known Wildlife Management Area in Florida is the Everglades. This natural preserve spans across three counties, with Palm Beach County being the northernmost entrance point. South Bay is home to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (Water Conservation Area 1), where fishing and boating opportunities abound. Due to the swampy character of the Everglades, it is a high nesting area for alligators and many species of fish. As one would expect, FWC violations in this area usually arise from the unlawful hunting of gators and fishing out of season. However, with the large amount of flora and fauna found in the Everglades, the possibilities for Fish and Wildlife violations are endless.
The J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area is a favorite for tourists and locals alike. Situated in northern Palm Beach County adjacent to the DuPuis WMA, J.W. Corbett enjoys diverse wildlife and an impressive landscape. J.W. Corbett is a popular destination for hunters, especially in the fall. Hunting is allowed – and even encouraged – in this WMA, as long as hunters follow the rules. Some typical Fish and Wildlife violations at J.W. Corbett include hunting or fishing without a license, hunting or fishing out of season, release of hunting dogs, and failure to enter or exit at designated areas.
Representation for Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Violations in Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)
It is hard to imagine an innocent fishing, hunting, or camping trip turning into an arrest. Yet, criminal charges for fish and wildlife violations are more common than you think. Game wardens are tasked with protecting nature, the number of restrictions in Wildlife Management Areas is high, and the general public is often unaware of FWC rules; these three factors make up a perfect storm for criminal liability.
If you have been charged with a fish and wildlife crime in a wildlife management area in Palm Beach or Martin county, our law firm can help. Casanova Law is a criminal defense law firm in Palm Beach County with special focus on Fish and Wildlife cases. Our years of experience handling FWC matters can give you the advantage.
Do not assume a fish and wildlife case is inconsequential; many of them come with the potential for jail time and a criminal record. Call our fish and wildlife defense firm today.