Operation Game Thief is Texas' wildlife Crime-stoppers program, offering rewards of up to $1,000.00 for information leading to the arrest and conviction for a wildlife crime. Begun in 1981 as a result of laws passed by the 67th Legislature to help curtail poaching, the program, a function of the law enforcement division of Texas Parks and Wildlife, is highly successful. In the last ten years OGT has provided over $600,000 in grants to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) for the purchase of specialized and technologically advanced equipment for Texas game wardens. Privately funded, the program is dependent on financial support from the public through the purchase of OGT
and merchandise, donations, sponsorships, and gifts.
Texas, as we all know, is a vast State with an already huge, ever burgeoning population. There are over 24 million people inhabiting 254 counties that encompass 262,017 square miles of land area, and over 3 million surface acres of water. Currently, approximately 530 wardens, including supervisory personnel, are responsible for patrolling this vast area for the purposes of enforcement of our states hunting and fishing laws. It is evident from these figures that the wardens need all the eyes and ears they can get to assist in the intervention of the ever increasing, money driven, exploitation of the wildlife resources of this state.
Numerous examples of this exploitation exist. Mature white-tailed bucks are killed on midnight runs, then beheaded, leaving the meat behind, in anticipation of selling the bragging-sized rack to a well-to-do, unsuccessful hunter. Various freshwater and saltwater fish, including white bass, crappie, striped and hybrid striped bass, catfish, redfish, specked trout, flounder, black drum and others are being taken through the use of illegal nets in large quantities, and without regard for size or bag limits. Shrimp and oysters are often harvested in illegal quantities and from areas closed to harvest. The product is then sold, both in and out of state, to select restaurants, wholesale and retail fish dealers, even to individuals from vacant city lots located in high traffic metropolitan areas. Even birds, snakes, turtles, mussels, and protected plants fall prey to these unscrupulous operators.
Unlike the opportunist poacher who shoots a deer from the roadside after an unanticipated encounter on his way home, or the twice a year crappie fisherman who justifies his over the bag limit harvest to himself as "making up for the times he can't get off work to fish," these perpetrators are no more than thieves who steal all they can get while they can get it, all in the name of making money. And the best of them apply their trade with a skill steeped in years of experience, often using tricks of the trade passed on from one generation to the next. How large is the scope of this illegal commerce? No one knows for sure. While most of us tend to think of what is in our immediate area, the fact is that illegal operations routinely cross state lines, and ample evidence exists that many operations have global contacts.
What can you do to help resolve this problem? Get involved at your own level. Alert observation by concerned citizens such as yourself, followed by immediate reporting of the suspected violation, gives the local warden a much-needed edge in catching the bad guys. Operation Game Thief is the mechanism that allows you to get immediately involved and quickly get that information to the warden. Receiving a tip on illegal activity while it is occurring can make a significant difference in whether or not the violator is apprehended. Even if the offender has left the scene before the warden can get there, there may be critical evidence, or even other witnesses with important information, that can be used to make a case in court. Make the poachers know that you won't sit idly by while they exploit our resources. Pick up the phone and call 1-800-792-GAME
. Remember YOU
can make a difference! The reward hotline is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Over the life of the program, more than 28,000 calls have been received and investigated.
For more information on the Operation Game Thief program, contact Lewis Rather
. To find out more about the Operation Game Thief Fund, visit the Texas Administrative Code