Oregon Wildlife Coalition funds new rewards program to catch non-game poachers

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) — When people conjure up the image of a poacher, it’s usually a sleazy figure shooting an out-of-season or untagged trophy buck or bull for the thrill of the kill, antlers or meat. But other wild animals that are not hunted are also poached.

A new coalition aims to combat this. Eight nonprofit groups have joined the state’s efforts to combat poaching by creating a new cash rewards program for tipsters who call the OSP Turn In Poachers (TIP) line – this time to benefit those “non-game” species that are not hunted, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday.

The Oregon Wildlife Coalition (OWC) will pay out rewards of $500 to $1,000 for poaching reports that lead Oregon State Police troopers to an arrest or citation. OWC has launched the new rewards program to combat poaching of non-game species.

“Oregon has a pervasive poaching problem, and we want to be part of the solution,” said Danielle Moser, a coalition representative. “When poachers kill wildlife, they rob all Oregonians who value and enjoy our state’s wildlife and the wild places they call home. Our goal is to encourage members of the public to report suspicious or illegal wildlife activity to the Oregon State Police.

The OWC Reward Fund will provide cash incentives to members of the public who report poaching of game and non-game species. In addition to game species like deer, elk and bear, the new reward fund will cover species like raptors, small mammals and reptiles.

For example, OWC will pay $500 in rewards for poaching tips on eagles, hawks, owls and other raptors. They will pay $1,000 for poaching tips on animals listed as “threatened” or “endangered” by state or federal endangered species law – wild animals like wolverines, foxes dwarfs, red voles and sea otters.

Species at risk also include those smuggled into wildlife trafficking schemes through the pet trade, wet markets and illegal online sales. For example, pond dwellers like frogs, turtles, reptiles and other small animals are easy to catch and keep or sell. Such capture can devastate the balance of micro-ecosystems.

The new fund is similar to an existing program run by the Oregon Hunters Association (OHA), which offers cash rewards for tips that lead to an arrest or citation for poachers who target game species. OHA awards cover game reports such as elk, deer and waterfowl, for which there are regular hunting seasons. In 2020, the OHA distributed over $20,000 in cash awards.

The hope is that poachers will think twice about preying on non-game animals like hawks, owls and eagles, for the thrill of the kill, according to ODFW Stop Poaching campaign manager, Yvonne Shaw.

“Raptors, which eat incredible numbers of mice, voles and other crop pests, have been targeted,” she said. “We lose many amazing birds every year to thrills.”

ODFW will continue to offer Hunter Preference Points as a reward for tipsters if they prefer this to the cash rewards offered by OWC and the Oregon Hunters Association. More information can be found on the OSP Fish and Wildlife Division website.

The Stop Braconing campaign educates the public on how to recognize and report poaching. It’s a collaboration between state agencies, sports and other conservationists, landowners and recreationists to engage the public in the fight against poaching in Oregon.

The aims are to encourage reporting of wildlife crime through the TIP Line; strengthen law enforcement by increasing the number of OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers; and help prosecution become an effective deterrent. The campaign helps protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitat for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Contact campaign coordinator Yvonne Shaw for more information. Yvonne.L.Shaw@odfw.oregon.gov.

If you know or suspect any other wildlife or fish habitat crime, please report it to the Turn In Poachers (TIP) line. 1-800-452-7888 or *OSP (*677) from a mobile phone. Or by email: TIP@osp.oregon.gov between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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