More than 162,000 people viewed this image of an illegally killed whitetail online, which led to the Game Commission receiving information that produced an arrest.
Operation Game Thief is proving successful so far.
That’s the name of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s program for soliciting the public’s help in solving wildlife crimes. Those who witness or have information about something such as poaching can call a toll-free number – 1-888-PGC-8001 — or go to the commission’s website to provide anonymous tips.
It’s an improvement over the old TIP, or “turn in a poacher,” program in two ways, said Tom Grohol, director of the bureau of wildlife protection.
First, it’s getting more public participation. In 2014, under TIP, the commission received 96 calls from the public in October, 118 in November and 220 in December. In 2015, under Operation Game Thief, it got 177, 326 and 248 calls in those same months.
Second, and maybe more importantly, under the new program, the average time from when a call is received to when a wildlife conservation officer gets the information is just 21 minutes, Grohol said. That’s critical, he said.
“There are a lot of cases, if you don’t get it until the next day, you don’t get it,” agreed executive director Matt Hough.
The additional tips and quicker turnaround has resulted in officers making “some pretty significant cases,” Grohol said.
The commission has been using Facebook to post information on poaching cases, and that’s generated a lot of views, he said. In one case, enough people commented on the case of a bear killed illegally in Rothrock State Forest that the man who shot it turned himself in, Grohol said. Another post, about an 8-point buck, generated tips after it was viewed more than 162,000 times.
In that case, Grohol said he’s “quite certain” that attention helped lead to officers making a case against the poacher.
Operation Game Thief is explained in a video you can see here.