Our eyes popped when we saw the report of a man who was arrested after allegedly using his rifle in confronting a 12-year-old he suspected of poaching earlier this month, not only because a child may have been involved but because this was just no way to approach such a situation.
With few Fish and Wildlife Protection troopers and thousands of square miles of wild country, fish and game law enforcement relies heavily on extra sets of eyes afield in Alaska -- but not guns afield.
With help from people who witness crimes afield, substantial cases have been put together against poachers who have illegally killed or wantonly wasted untold numbers of fish and game over the years.
The best way for hunters to pass along law enforcement tips is through the Fish and Wildlife Safeguard Program. Safeguard is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Alaska State Troopers that provides a toll-free line to a statewide trooper dispatch system. The line allows people to report violations -- anonymously if they wish -- and makes them eligible for a reward should their tip yield results. Troopers handle the law enforcement and dispatch end of the program and a volunteer citizen committee administers the program funds and decides on rewards.
Troopers note that the anonymity offered by the program has been invaluable, especially to people in smaller communities who wish to report illegal activity while remaining anonymous.
Callers are given options to remain anonymous or to give as much information as they wish -- including whether they are willing to help with more information or to be contacted by troopers. The information is immediately forwarded to the trooper post nearest the location of the report.
The worst possible thing anyone can do is to try to confront someone who doesn't want to be seen in the first place, according to troopers. It's best to gather information and leave without being seen.
Troopers recommend the following actions for those who witness possible wildlife crimes:
Get a vehicle license number;
note descriptions of the vehicle or ATV (bumper stickers, chrome detailing, decals, special paint or other unique features);
pinpoint the location as best as you can;
note the exact time;
note descriptions of the people involved and any distinguishing features (height, hair color, facial hair, what they are wearing, etc.)
tell exactly what you saw happen and why you think it's a violation;
if you can safely take pictures or video, that can only help.
It's best to call as soon as possible, but sometimes cases can be made on reports that come months after something has happened.
Never hesitate to call -- even if you are unsure what you saw was a violation.
Hunters, most likely, are the people afield who would witness illegal actions afield, and hunters are the ones with the most incentive to turn in these criminals and protect wildlife resources.
This is the time of year to keep your eyes open.
The toll-free number to Fish and Wildlife Safeguard is (800) 478-3377.
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