A record number of Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline calls referred to conservation officers (CO) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) led to a significant increase in poaching arrests in 2012.
TIP calls referred to COs jumped 54 percent in 2012 to 2,051, compared with 1,328 in 2011. The previous record was 1,866 in 1981, when TIP was founded.
Last year’s calls led to 359 arrests, mostly related to deer, fish and waterfowl violations. The arrests represent a 29 percent increase over 2011. The record high is 428 arrests in 1991.
“Many good cases are the result of citizens calling the TIP hotline at (800) 652-9093,” said Col. Jim Konrad, DNR enforcement director.
Konrad said the record increase in TIP calls that were referred to COs and resulted in arrests indicates that more people are reporting illegal activities they see afield. He noted that eyewitness reports are strong tools in combating violations.
Last May, CO Eric Schettler of Fairmont received four TIP calls within 30 minutes about possible fish over-limits. The calls resulted in enforcement action against three poachers with 198 crappies more than the legal limit, three walleyes out of season and two nonresident anglers without licenses. Restitution and fines for the poachers were $1,550.
“If it wasn’t for TIP, these guys would have gotten away,” Schettler said.
A TIP call also led to three men catching and keeping a lot of fish from a Douglas County lake. The call contained important information: a description of the suspects, a license plate number of their vehicle and their location.
“A conservation officer has only one set of eyes and covers 650 square miles,” Konrad said. “If the public is concerned about natural resources, every person is another set of eyes that can help catch those violating the law.”
Since 1981 the TIP hotline has fielded thousands of reports of fish and wildlife violations, paying out nearly $358,000 in cash rewards that lead to arrests. Nearly half of informants turn the reward down.
Anyone witnessing a fish or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the 24 hour toll-free TIP hotline at (800) 652-9093. Cell phone users can dial #TIP.