PGC’s Operation Game Thief protects state wildlife
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Operation Game Thief program protects wild birds and wild mammals by encouraging those with information related to wildlife crimes to report it as soon as possible.
Wildlife crimes affect everyone and reporting illegal wildlife activity helps to protect wildlife for current and future generations. To confidentially report information, call the Operation Game Thief’s toll-free hotline — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — at (888) PGC-8001 or fill out an online form at http://bit.ly/PGCOGT.
Follow the “Operation Game Thief, Pennsylvania Game Commission” Facebook page for current cases.
“Whether you’re a hunter, a trapper, a bird watcher or someone who enjoys walking in the woods, wildlife crimes affect us all,” Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said. “If you saw someone breaking into your neighbor’s house or witnessed someone shoplifting at a store, you would likely report it to the appropriate authorities. Reporting poaching incidents should be no different, as it is theft of a natural resource.”
With more than 1,500 submissions per year, Pennsylvania’s program is the third-busiest in the nation behind Texas and Florida. The Game Commission averages a less than 20-minute turnaround from when a tip comes in until an officer is dispatched to the incident
The illegal shooting or taking of big game or protected, endangered or threatened species, or any crime against those species should be reported. Other violations should be reported to the Game Commission region office serving the county in which the violation took place as quickly as possible.
To make an OGT report, share as many details as possible, including: a description of what was seen and the species involved; the date and time of the occurrence; the county, township and/or address of where the event occurred; a description of the person(s) height, weight, hair color, eye color, approximate age, tattoo or other distinguishing features, clothing, sporting arm, etc.; and a description of a vehicle(s) color, make, model, dents, decals, bumper stickers, license plate number and state, road/route and/or direction of travel.
If the suspected violation involves the killing of big game animals, or threatened or endangered species, an additional $500 penalty may be added to fines levied upon those found guilty of Game and Wildlife Code violations. The $500 enhanced penalty goes into a special fund from which half the amount ($250) may be paid to the individual who provided the information that led to the conviction. The remainder is used to offset the costs of the OGT program. Conservation Officers of Pennsylvania (COPA) also fully support the OGT program. COPA also supplies rewards in many incidents that lead to the successful prosecution of many Game and Wildlife code violations.
“Poaching is not hunting,” said Burhans. “Ethical hunters are conservationists who follow hunting rules, laws, season and bag limits when legally harvesting game. Poachers selfishly ignore the rules and illegally take wildlife from the landscape. Unfortunately, an increase in OGT reports usually occurs during the fall and winter months which is why we’re reminding the public about the program now.”
The Game Commission manages 136 districts across Pennsylvania’s more than 46,000 square miles. Currently 116 full-time state game wardens are assigned to those districts statewide. The eyes and ears of the public are crucial to wildlife protection efforts across the state.
The agency’s podcast “Call of the Outdoors,” featured OGT program managers in Episode 21: Operation Game Thief Protects Pennsylvania Wildlife. Podcast episodes are available on www.calloftheoutdoorspgc.com, Apple Podcasts, Google Play Store, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Stitcher.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is the state’s wildlife agency which manages and protects wildlife and their habitats, while promoting hunting and trapping, for current and future generations.
More information about OGT and the agency is available online at www.pgc.pa.gov.