Nearly 34,000 hunters who failed to report the results of their 2012 deer or elk tags by the required deadline must now pay a $25 penalty before they can buy their 2014 hunting licenses.
Next year's hunting licenses go on sale Dec. 1, and those who failed to follow mandatory reporting rules will be required to pay the fee when they try to buy their 2014 license at point-of-sale license outlets statewide or online.
They will be the first people to get nicked for not participating under a mandatory reporting program passed by the Oregon Legislature.
The holders of about 29,000 deer tags and 17,000 elk tags didn't report, out of 298,000 deer and elk tags sold. Most hunt-reporting deadlines were in January, and the requirements are for anyone who bought a big-game tag whether they were successful and even if they never hunted.
Some hunters bought deer and elk tags and failed to report on them, so the estimated number of hunters facing the new penalty is about 33,600, says Michelle Dennehy, wildlife division spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
If each penalized hunter pays the fee, that would generate $840,000.
The money that gets collected will be added to the ODFW Wildlife Division's general licensing dollars, which generate about $20 million annually, says Ron Anglin, the division's administrator.
License money pays for things ranging from wildlife surveys and addressing damage complaints to big-game programs and staff salaries, Anglin says.
Penalty money "is not anything we're planning on or counting on, so it's just going to go into that general account," Anglin says.
"But I wish we didn't get a dime," he says. "I wish people just reported."
The mandatory reporting law went into effect in 2007 as a way for ODFW biologists to get better data on hunting success and harvest rates, which help them set future tag numbers.
The no-penalty route, and a subsequent incentive program, failed to get reporting numbers above 40 percent — far under the threshold needed for sound data.
After the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the $25 penalty in October 2012, reporting rates on deer and elk hunts rocketed to 85 percent — high enough for biologists to factor the data into tag proposals this year, Dennehy says.
While hunters are also required to report results for pronghorn, cougar, bear and turkey tags, the penalty applies only to those who fail to report on deer and elk tags.
If reporting rates for other species are too low in the future, the penalty could be extended to those species, Dennehy says.
The fee is $25 regardless of how many tags a hunter failed to file reports on, Dennehy says.
Hunters who cannot remember whether they reported on time can check the My Hunter Information Web page at www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/Hunting/reporting/index.asp or call 1-866-947-6339 to check. They need their Hunter/Angler ID number, which is printed on all licenses and tags and stays the same from year to year.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or email@example.com.