Search warrants, crime scenes, and a multitude of alleged wildlife violations aren’t your typical Thanksgiving fare, unless you are a conservation officer working for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Responding to a poaching tip, almost a dozen Game and Fish officers spent their Thanksgiving processing crime scenes in Mora and Harding counties, tracking down a judge to sign a search warrant before he sat down to his turkey dinner, and watching an alleged poacher unload two whole mule deer stuffed in a hatchback car.
Among the items the officers seized under the warrant were a gun and a crossbow, computers, several cameras, two freshly killed deer and other alleged illegal game, said Sgt. Ty Jackson of Las Vegas. “We expect there will be numerous charges resulting from this investigation when it is complete.”
The alleged crimes were committed along N.M. 120 between Wagon Mound and Roy. The animals were believed killed during the early hours of Thanksgiving Day. Once the investigation is complete, Jackson anticipates charges being filed in Mora and Harding counties.
Mule deer are especially vulnerable to poaching at the end of November and through December because they are in the rut or breeding season, and are concentrating more on procreation than survival during this time. As a result, New Mexico’s conservation officers are increasing patrols to prevent lawless individuals from doing significant damage to one of the state’s most majestic and valuable wildlife resources.
The public can help combat poaching, too.
Individuals who believe they have information about the poaching of deer or other protected wildlife should call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-432-4263. Tips that result in charges against or arrests of wildlife violators may earn a reward and callers may remain anonymous. The reward paid in deer poaching cases is $500.
“Operation Game Thief is available seven days a week and 24 hours a day,” Sgt. Jackson said. “Poachers work during the holidays, and so do we. Please give us a call if you see something suspicious.”
Logo courtesy New Mexico Department of Game and Fish