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Sat, Feb. 22

Editorial: Report wildlife violations

As the leaves begin changing colors signifying the arrival of fall, hunters of all ages begin to plan for the big hunt. Some hunts are already under way. Our city welcomes hunters from outside our area. The majority of hunters consists of respectful and law abiding citizens. However, as with any sport or recreational activity, there are always a few rotten apples in the bunch.

Arizona Game and Fish Department law enforcement officers want the public to report wildlife violations, but there are things a person should and shouldn't do at a potential crime scene. In most of us, the desire to help and do the right thing is important. However, there are times that desire can actually hinder law enforcement efforts.

For instance, sometimes those encountering violations inform the violator they will be calling the Operation Game Thief (OGT) 24-hour hotline. At that point the violator flees the scene before law enforcement personnel can arrive.

A better approach is to avoid contact, leave the scene and call the OGT hotline as soon as possible with details. Obtain information such as license plate numbers, names (if known), vehicle descriptions and GPS coordinates. These are all tips the responding officer will use to locate violators.

Another common mistake people make is getting too close or examining a dead animal. Additional footprints, tire tracks and any disturbance of the area makes an investigation difficult - if not impossible. If the death of a wild animal appears to be suspicious, Game and Fish personnel say it is likely illegal. Do not disturb the area around the site. Instead, call the OGT hotline and provide the location.

Finally, individuals should remember that confronting suspected violators in remote areas could be dangerous. Allow trained law enforcement officers to handle such situations. Individuals should focus on being a good witness without putting themselves in harm's way.

Anyone witnessing or suspecting a violation can call OGT toll free, 24 hours a day at 1-800-352-0700. Callers can remain anonymous. The OGT program may pay rewards for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in a case.

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