Fall hunting is now in full swing, and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks is reminding hunters who see illegal activities to call the Turn In Poachers (TIPS) hotline at 888-OVERBAG (683-7226).

The hotline, which is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allows people to report information about wildlife violations – and if they choose – remain anonymous. Those who would prefer to email TIPs reports may do so on the GFP website: http://gfp.sd.gov/agency/law-enforcement/turn-in-poachers.aspx.

From July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, a total of 394 TIPs cases were investigated. Those investigations led to 146 arrests or citations. As a result of successful cases closed during that period, poachers were assessed more than $27,000 in fines and were sentenced to 1,730 days in jail. Offenders were also assessed almost $50,000 in civil damages.

Wildlife Protection, Inc., the nonprofit agency handling TIPS rewards, paid $8,725 to those who took the initiative to report wildlife violations.

Since the beginning of the South Dakota TIPs Program in 1984, there have been more than 10,000 investigations, leading to more than 3,000 arrests or citations. Violators have been required to pay $650,000 in fines and more than $500,000 in civil damages.

During the same 28-year period, nearly $130,000 in TIPS rewards have gone to witnesses who provided information on violations.

“These numbers are proof that South Dakotans are serious about protecting our natural resources,” said Charlie Wharton, TIPs coordinator for GFP. “As caretakers of nature, we all have a vested interest in the public trust of preserving wildlife for future generations. It’s heartening to have people take an active interest in reporting violators and protecting our resources.”

Wharton reminds those who witness wildlife violations, and even those who learn of them later, to call their local conservation officers or use the TIPs hotline.

While any information can be useful, those things that can be most beneficial are accurate physical descriptions of people committing hunting and fishing violations, specific geographical information and vehicle information. The most helpful vehicle information is a license plate number, along with the general make, model, color or any unique markings and graphics that might improve the chances of officers locating them.

“South Dakota has a limited number of law enforcement officers patrolling our state,” Wharton said. “The good people of South Dakota can make a real difference in stopping poaching.”

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