Hunting seasons are all but over, however, as Fred Parker, Kansas City told me recently, "If you have people and wildlife, you will have violations. You will also have people who detest the violators and thus will turn them in if promised anonymity and a bit of caash incentive."
Parker was referring to the Missouri program Operation Game Thief, which has been a success from its inception in October 1982. The public wanted this kind of vehicle to help them get rid of poachers and others who break wildlife laws.
Each conservation agent has more than 400 square miles to oversee and that's a very large area for one pair of eyes. Citizens can help by reporting wildlife violations and arson caused forest fires in the state.
Other states have similar programs including Ohio where Jerry Scott, who retired from the Ohio Division of Wildlife law enforcement section, but still kept his memories of the Ohio Tips program.
Even after more than a decade Scott began to hyperventilate when he recalled the day he met the "colorful lady" in a small town doughnut shop and handed her a stack of $20s for a tip about a wildlife violation. She counted the bills as if she had a lot of practice. Scott said, "Maybe she was a bank teller, but I don't think so." Then Scott and the colorful lady went their separate ways, never to meet again.
"I found out later on why there had been so much staring," Scott said. " The place had been raided the day before for drug dealing and prostitution." Scott smiled and said, "It's amazing what a little anger and a telephone will do. We've had husbands turned in by their wives, we have had baby-sitters call and one time we had a wife turned in by her husband.
"Well, look at it this way, this woman checked a deer at one of our check stations -- and it was neither her deer nor her husband's deer. That led me to believe it might have been her boyfriend's deer and not many husbands would be happy about that." Scott reasoned. Helaughed and said, " People are something else, aren't they?" More often than not, it seems most people are stoutly opposed to the misuse of our natural resources.
For example, calls to the Missouri Operation Game Thief number at (800) 392-1111 have resulted in catching violators and thousands of dollars awarded to callers.
The Jefferson City office of Operation game Thief reported the highest awards were several in the $1,000 range in the most serious cases involved. The majority of callers don't want the money and request it be put to use to help the program.
During the long archery season, sportsmen literally came out of the trees to help nab violators.
Bow hunters, in tree stands see a lot and do a lot of talking on the phone. What they see, among other things are so called hunters of small game who are actually hunting deer with guns out of season.
"Its remarkable, even amazing how much people care about the protection of wildlife," Parker said. " I think Operation Game Thief is a good idea." Should you witness or suspect a wildlife violation, report it to your local conservation agent or call this toll-free number (800)393-1111, which is manned 24 hours a day. You may remain anonymous, and you may ask to be considered for a reward if you so wish.
When you call, you will be asked a few simple questions that the answers will be vital to the investigation. A few items to remember if you should witness a suspected violation.
Nature of the suspected violation The date and time of the violation The suspects identity, if possible a description of the suspects and their vehicles. Poaching hurts us all although you might not"feel the pain" of poaching personally, this crime can affect you in specific ways. Poachers steal your opportunity to hunt and fish.Poachers who cheat the permit system cheat every Missouri taxpayer since the Conservation Department depends on revenue from hunting and fishing permits to manage wildlife populations and habitat.
A person is poaching if he or she sells venison, fish or small game, collects live animals for sale, hunts or fished without a permit if needed or collects native seeds, plants or roots on Conservation lands.