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Doug Leier, Published October 23 2012

Leier: The need to report poaching violations hasn't changed

Fargo - I’m not certain of the exact date, but I remember my first observation of a hunting violation like it was yesterday.

My dad and I were hunting waterfowl in what was known locally as “the pass.”

For all practical purposes, “the pass” could be just about anywhere waterfowlers hunt in North Dakota. I won’t divulge the exact location, but if you turn by the stubble field, after the big rock a mile down from the tree claim, that will get you in the vicinity.

The point, however, isn’t about the location but rather that the scenario could have taken place in just about anywhere waterfowl hunters in North Dakota may congregate for the morning shoot.

As legal shooting hours arrived and birds began moving from one pond to the next, hunters noticed some rather large white birds slowly flying over the pass. A few shouts of “swan, swan” rang out, followed by a couple of shotgun shots that dropped two swans from the sky to the ground. At that time, more than 25 years ago, swans were not legal gamebirds as they are today as long as a hunter applies for and receives a special permit.

Even though I was a young hunter, I knew what had happened, along with everyone else at the pass. The shooters did not properly identify their target and numerous hunters witnessed the violation.

If such a situation occurred today, one of the witnesses surely would have used a cell phone to contact the Report All Poachers program immediately, but back then, I wondered if we’d pack up and head into town to report the violation, confront the hunters, or wait and see if they might even report themselves.

To this day I still wonder how local game warden Harold Bellin arrived at the scene so quickly and got the situation under control. But whether the eyewitness report came after a drive to town and dial-up on a pay phone, or an instant call from the field, the need for hunters, anglers or landowners to report violations through the Report All Poachers program hasn’t changed.

RAP is a cooperative project between the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, State Radio Communications and the North Dakota Wildlife Federation. The RAP line offers rewards – from $100 to $1,000 depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime – for information that leads to conviction of fish and wildlife law violators.

Reports can also go directly to game wardens or other law enforcement agencies. Callers can remain anonymous.

Witnesses should note vehicle description, including make, color, license plate number and state issued. Description of the violator is also helpful if known.

Witnesses should report a violation by calling the RAP telephone number at (800) 472-2121. RAP will then contact the local game warden immediately.

With waterfowl and upland game seasons in full gear and tens of thousands of archery and rifle deer hunters taking the field in a few weeks, North Dakota’s three dozen game wardens rely on concerned citizens to report suspect behavior.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com