by J.R. Brammer
CLARKSBURG -- Illegal hunting poses a significant problem in West Virginia -- and Lewis County is the site of some of the state's worst violations, officials say.
Lewis County reported the largest number of convictions and fines collected last year following court dispositions of the hunting-related charges, according to Division of Natural Resources statistics.
"The violations could be a multitude of things ranging from hunting without a license to shooting from the road," said Capt. Kaven Ransom, DNR district supervisor in Fairmont.
Ransom said hunting violations are damaging financially -- loss of state revenue -- and environmentally.
"This time of year it's a big problem," he said.
In the wake of Monday's buck-hunting season kickoff, the 2000-2001 West Virginia hunting season is taking the state by storm.
More than 300,000 hunters will comb the woods and hills of West Virginia hoping to bag a prized trophy or some fresh deer meat, officials say. The surge also stimulates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue statewide.
Policing the influx of hunters, however, is a costly and time-consuming endeavor, authorities say. Recently, officials in Lewis County have been especially busy.
In 1999, 320 people were convicted of various DNR citations that were issued in Lewis County. The convictions resulted in $23,541 in fines and court costs, DNR records show.
Hampshire County posted the second-highest tally with 223 convictions, resulting in $21,550 in fines and court costs.
With easy access from Interstate 79, Lewis County draws non-resident hunters from throughout West Virginia and abroad, Ransom said.
"Lewis County is a rural county with a good location," Ransom said. "(Lewis County) has a large population of deer and turkey. It's a popular place to hunt."
According to records, officials in:
n Barbour County reported 83 convictions, resulting in $7,713 in fines and court costs.
- Doddridge County reported 16 convictions, resulting in $1,392 in fines and court costs.
- Harrison County reported 117 convictions, resulting in $11,338 in fines and court costs.
- Marion County reported 71 convictions, resulting in $8,641 in fines and court costs.
- Randolph County reported 186 convictions, resulting in $18,338 in fines and court costs.
- Taylor County reported 54 convictions, resulting in $5,512 in fines and court costs.
- Upshur County reported 71 convictions, resulting in $5,637 in fines and court costs.
Staff writer J.R. Brammer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.