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Thermal imagery equipment illegal in Missouri starting next year

Sunday, May 17, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 1:20 a.m. CDT, Sunday, May 17, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Missouri Conservation Commission’s decision this spring to ban the use of thermal imagery equipment while hunting is a response to changing technology, said Regulations Committee Chairman Dave Erickson.

The ban, which takes effect March 1, 2010, makes it illegal to possess thermal imagery equipment while simultaneously in possession of a firearm, bow or other implement in which wildlife could be taken.

“It could give violators or wildlife poachers too much of an advantage,” Erickson said.

Thermal imagery technology works by taking the invisible heat signature of an object and transforming it into a visual representation, according to video-surveillance-guide.com. This makes it possible to see at night.

The equipment is often used by military and law enforcement, said Kurt Kysar, protection field chief for the Department of Conservation. It comes in the form of hand-held cameras or scopes, which can be mounted on weapons.

“You have the advantage of seeing an animal that is otherwise undetectable by human beings,” Erickson said. “We don’t see it as a whole lot different from night vision equipment.”

Hunting after dark, as well as the use of night vision equipment and spotlights, is already illegal in Missouri. According to Erickson, use of thermal imagery equipment is not widespread among hunters.

Bass Pro Shops in Columbia does not sell thermal imagery equipment of any kind, said manager Lisa Patterson. However, such equipment can be ordered online from numerous Web sites.

Erickson said he thinks there have been no cases of thermal imagery equipment being used in Missouri so far.

“We aren’t really taking anything away from anyone. We’re just declaring it illegal before it comes into prominent use,” he said.


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