In an effort to hammer poachers, New Mexico Game and Fish announced earlier this month that new legislation had been passed, elevating the crime of wasting game from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Poachers that kill bighorn sheep, ibex, oryx, Barbary sheep, elk, deer or pronghorn without a license or out of season and leave the animal to waste will face increased fines and jail times upon conviction.

“Over the last five years, I have worked closely with the department on this important legislation,” said Representative Alonzo Baldonado. “Our state’s conservation officers now have the added strength of this law to better protect New Mexico’s valuable wildlife resource for all citizens of New Mexico.”

Gov. Susana Martinez officially signed the legislation into law and would see violators faced upwards of 18 months in prison, $5,000 in fines and would no longer be able to hunt using a firearm.  As a felony, the statute of limitations on wasted game cases increases from two to five years. Out-of-state suspects in such cases also could face extradition under the new law.

“We are pleased this bill was signed into law,” said commission chairman, Paul Kienzle. “Conserving New Mexico’s wildlife is our top priority and with these enhanced penalties our game wardens will have the tools needed to provide a greater level of protection.”