The Oregon Hunters Association’s Turn In Poachers reward program paid $24,200 to informants in poaching cases last year — a record amount in the program’s 32 years.
The rewards were paid in 50 separate fish and wildlife violation cases reported to Oregon State Police Offices throughout the state, including six in Douglas County, according to an Oregon Hunters Association report to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday.
These numbers are up from previous years, when the number of reward cases averaged around 20 to 35, and total reward amounts were about $10,000.
In 2017, the association increased the standard reward amounts, which now range from $100 for birds, fish and furbearers to $500 for deer, elk and antelope and $1,000 for bighorn sheep, mountain goat and moose.
OSP Senior Trooper Aaron Baimbridge, based out of the Roseburg office, said TIP is a great program and the information the public provides gives the troopers a good place to start working on a case.
He said he’s personally been able to solve poaching cases using information from members of the public who call in through the program.
“Just last week I gave somebody a check for one of the cases they helped us with,” Baimbridge said, adding that person is going to donate his reward to a kids’ hunting program. “It was a deer poaching case north of Oakland and they gave us the information we needed.”
Baimbridge said TIP definitely helps, and he looks forward to working with people to take care of poaching cases.
OHA State Coordinator Duane Dungannon, whose office issues the reward checks, said he believes the increased reward amounts likely contributed to the increases in cases as well as the sum of rewards. And Lieutenant Craig Heuberger of the Fish and Wildlife Division at the Oregon State Police said he thinks an increase in public awareness of the cases through local media outlets and social media has also played a factor.
The TIP fund is largely self-sustaining as the result of courts ordering convicted violators to pay restitution to the fund. Last year, violators paid $23,917 in restitution.
Poaching will be included in the state legislative session that opened this week. One bill would better enable courts to apply the penalties in place for poaching. In addition, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will present a proposal for a poaching public awareness campaign.
OHA chapters and other conservation groups sometimes pledge additional amounts in certain poaching cases. Reward offers have exceeded $17,000 in a few cases, including one involving a recent northeast Oregon bighorn sheep poaching and another in a southern Oregon elk killing and wasting spree. When the reward of $17,500 was offered, the elk killing stopped.
Callers can remain anonymous and still collect a reward from OHA if the information leads to a citation.
For more information, visit oregonhunters.org.