Northwoods poachers lurk in search of ginseng, big profitsSubmitted: 09/23/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer

NORTHWOODS - Not too many things sell for hundreds of dollars per pound, unless we're talking gold or silver.

But northern Wisconsin forests produce something that's worth about just as much as something you'd find in a jewelry store.

And in many cases, taking it is highly illegal.

Poachers lurk in the forests of northern Wisconsin.

But they're not on the hunt for rare animals.

They're looking for rare plants - and big profits.

"There's decent money involved in ginseng root," says DNR Warder Supervisor David Walz.

Illegal harvest of ginseng root is a growing problem in Wisconsin.

It's shouldn't be much of a surprise, with how much wild ginseng can sell for.

For example, last year, "it was around $700, $750 per pound," Walz says.

I'm out in the woods looking for ginseng with Ryan Magana.

He's not actually a poacher - he's an ecologist with the DNR.

"This plant has cultural value in East Asia, among other places, with East Asia being prominent," Magana says. "They're willing to pay a lot of money for this plant. It's important to them culturally and economically. They're willing to pay a lot."

That's true, in part, because wild ginseng can be really hard to find.

"It's going to be subject to herbivory by deer, poaching by humans, and it has to be in the right habitat," says Magana.

A lot of the mesic soil and forest in Wisconsin - that is, not too wet or dry - is good habitat for ginseng growth.

In fact, 95% of the country's wild ginseng is taken from Wisconsin.

Ginseng harvest season started three weeks ago and runs through November 1.

The DNR regulates it heavily because it's so rare.

No harvest is allowed on federal or state lands, and harvest on private land requires a permit, property-owner permission, and taking only mature plants.

But with the prices ginseng can go for, poachers often throw those rules out the window.

"That's an issue that we often times see, with the money involved in ginseng root, we get some trespass issues," Walz says.

I'm not even allowed to say you exactly where Magana and I were in the forest, for fear that the place where we're looking to identify ginseng would be pounced upon by poachers.

We spent an hour searching and found nothing.

If poachers had found some, gotten caught, and been convicted, they'd be on the hook for hundreds of dollars in fines.

But with how much wild ginseng can go for, it's no wonder they take the risk - even if our search turned up nothing.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com


Play Video

WAUSAU - It can take a big name and a well-known face to get people excited about signing up for a group.  As part of its revitalization drive, Wausau's American Legion Post 10 got a visit from a name you might not recognize, but one that veterans groups know is an honor to host.

American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt stopped by the Wausau post Tuesday morning. It was the first visit by a national commander ever at Wausau's Post 10.

Schmidt says the same issues veterans faced when the Legion formed in 1919 -- healthcare, jobs, and education -- still exist in 2016.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Next Monday Northwoods youngsters will go house to house in search of Halloween candy and fun with friends.
But on Tuesday some Rhinelander high school students went going door-to-door a few days early.

Students from a business club took to the street to collect donations for their first ever 'Trick or Can' food drive.

Some students hope going into the community will help the event be successful.

"The idea is that it's no easier to give back in a food drive mentality than if we came to your house and asked to it. So in the theme of Halloween we took trick or can, and instead of asking for candy we are asking for cans in order to give back to our community," Rhinelander High School Senior Elliot Fehlen.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - New moms know how difficult it can be to adjust to having a newborn baby.

A group in the Northwoods wants to stress the importance of understanding baby behavior and making society comfortable with breastfeeding.

+ Read More

STEVENS POINT - On Tuesday at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Chelsea Clinton, daughter of 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, spoke to more than 300 people. 

During her speech she emphasized the need to end the negativity that was brought by Republican nominee Donald Trump this election calling it the "Trump Effect." 

"I never thought I would see in my lifetime the almost normalization of hate speech from a major presidential candidate," said Clinton.

For some who attended the event, seeing Clinton was more than just a reminder to get out and vote; it was a reminder of where Clinton started.

+ Read More

Play Video

PARK FALLS - A Chamber of Commerce likes to welcome people in to town, not scare them away.

In Park Falls, the chamber does it a little differently. 

Their haunted house is guaranteed to frighten anyone.

But the scares keep drawing people in while supporting the community.

"They should be prepared right off the bat," said volunteer Skyler Dural-Eder.

+ Read More

MILWAUKEE - The trade deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership has taken a pounding on the presidential campaign trail. But, at least one group is holding out hope for the pact - Wisconsin dairy producers

They see nothing but advantages from a deal that could increase exports at a time when their cows are producing more milk than ever in an over-saturated domestic market.

+ Read More

TOWN OF DEXTER - Two people died and two others were taken to the hospital after a head-on crash in Wood County Tuesday afternoon.

The Wood County Sheriff's Department says the cars crashed along Highway 80 in the Town of Dexter around 3:35 p.m.

Two of the three people in one car were pronounced dead at the scene.  The third was flown to Ministry St. Joseph's Hospital.  The driver of the other car was also flown to St. Jospeh's.

+ Read More
+ More General News

Click Here