Maine's Operation Game Thief (Maine OGT) program began in 1989 after Maine game warden Bill Vail traveled to New Mexico to research and learn about New Mexico's program. Shortly after, Maine modeled New Mexico's successful program. Since then, most all of the United States and Canadian provinces have a similar program. Since its inception, over 8,000 calls of poaching have been received resulting in well over 2,500 convictions, and over $70,000 in rewards paid to concerned citizens who reported suspected activity.
What is Operation Game Thief?
Operation Game Thief is a private, non-profit organization that works in cooperation with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Warden Service which pays rewards, if requested, to citizens who turn in poachers or to individuals unlawfully introducing non-native fish species to lakes, ponds and streams of Maine. To report acts of poaching, you can call toll-free within Maine at 1-800-253-7887 (1-800-ALERT-US). Out-of-state callers can call 1-207-287-6057. It is important to note that callers do not have to reveal their names or testify in court. Reward amounts vary based on the severity of the case but normally range from $100.00 to $1,000 for the most flagrant poaching cases. Rewards of up to $2,000 are paid for information that leads to the arrest or summons being issued to individuals unlawfully introducing non-native fish species into Maine’s waters. All of the monies that support this program come from donations from concerned sportsmen, sportswomen and citizens.
Why is Operation Game Thief so important?
In the entire State of Maine, there are fewer than 95 District Game Wardens so our fish and wildlife need your eyes and ears to report known or suspected poaching violations. Poaching is a serious and costly crime. Poaching robs legitimate sportsmen and sportswomen of fish and game, robs our businesses and taxpayers of revenues generated by hunting and fishing and robs all of us who enjoy the beauty of the State of Maine of a valuable resource - our fish and wildlife resources. The illegal introduction of non-native fish species in Maine has become the "resource crime of the century" as the ramification of this unlawful act has had, and will have, disastrous effects on our Maine native fisheries.
Is Poaching Significant?
Yes, although no one knows exact figures, studies indicate that poachers may take at least as many game animals and fish as legitimate hunters and anglers take during legal seasons. Even if poachers take half that amount, the number is staggering. Threatened, endangered and non-game wildlife are also fair game to the poacher.
How Does the Program Work?
Calls on the OGT hotline (toll-free within Maine at 1-800-253-7887 (1-800-ALERT-US) are taken by volunteers of the program. All information about the poaching incident is taken and the caller is assigned a code number. The toll-free line is currently answered every day of the year from 8 AM until midnight although very soon it will be a 24/365-day operation.
• Law enforcement personnel evaluate the information; investigations are begun immediately and must follow the same rules and constitutional guidelines as any law enforcement investigation.
• If a poacher is arrested or issued a summons on the basis of the information provided by a caller, a reward is authorized if asked for previously by the caller.
• Rewards can be paid in cash and the pay-off is arranged to protect the anonymity of the caller.
• Rewards will be paid only if the informant states that a reward is desired prior to any investigation. Actually, we've found that most fish and wildlife enthusiasts don't want the reward - they just want the criminals caught!
Be a sport. Report.