Latest Information about the Operation Game Thief Program
OGT is a silent witness, anti-poaching program that encourages the public to report any suspicious activity or knowledge about a poaching violation. The toll-free hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to report wildlife violations.
OGT 24/7 Hotline 1-800-352-0700, 1 800 – VANDALS to report vandalism
Poachers are thieves who steal Arizona’s most precious natural resource – wildlife! Poaching interferes with the ability to effectively manage wildlife and wildlife habitat. It negatively impacts the ability to enjoy the outdoors, and reduces opportunities to hunt and fish in Arizona.
Cellular phone calls to the OGT hotline have proven to be extremely beneficial. An officer’s chances of apprehending the violator while he is still in the woods are greatly enhanced when the offense is reported immediately. Most calls to the OGT hotline are now toll-fee. If your service is provided by either Verizon or Alltell, simply dial #HUNT, and you will be connected to the hotline.
The hotline has long tentacles. A caller may place a toll-free call not only within Arizona, but also from its border states that include Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and the southern half of California.
Reported violations are usually prioritized based on the severity and/or the legitimacy of the information provided. Because the Department has limited commissioned officers statewide, it is not possible to immediately respond to every call. All violations receive the highest priority, and every attempt is made to immediately dispatch an officer to the scene. Officers have extraordinarily large patrol areas, in addition to other responsibilities, and it is not always possible for an immediate response to a violation. This is why it is important that you act as a good witness so that follow-up by an officer can be conducted. Rest assured that your call and assistance is important.
All reported violations are logged, tracked, and analyzed for trend data to determine violation hot-spots. Special projects, patrols, or criminal investigations are conducted directly as a result of the trend data. No matter the degree of the reported violation, your tip usually makes the difference on whether a violator will be apprehended.
Things to Know about the Program
More than four decades of catching poachers
The Arizona Game and Fish Department long ago recognized the need for a program that provided the public with a way to report wildlife violations to assist wildlife managers in the ongoing battle against the poaching of Arizona’s fish and wildlife resources.
In 1974, the “Help Our Wildlife” (HOW) program was developed. The HOW program was limited due to a lack of dedicated funding, making the promotion of the program difficult and the financing of a reward program virtually impossible. Before cell phones calls often were made to the HOW program several days after the violation took place. While the information was valuable, the untimely reporting made catching the violator(s) in the field with illegally-taken wildlife unlikely.
In 1977, Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) 17-246 (re-numbered in 1978 to the current 17-314), established the civil liability process where the state could bring civil action against any person unlawfully taking, wounding or killing, or unlawfully in possession of wildlife and seek to recover the sum of damages for the loss of the wildlife to the state. Minimum sums of damage were assessed for each species of wildlife. For example, the minimum sum of damages to recover the poaching loss of an endangered species in 1977 was $750 whereas today’s civil liability minimum is $8,000.
Additional legislation was enacted in 1978 when, A.R.S. 17-315, created the Wildlife Theft Prevention Fund (WTPF). The WTPF consists of monies received from damage assessments pursuant to A.R.S 17-314, donations made to the fund, monies appropriated by the legislature, and monies received from fines, forfeitures and penalties for violation of game and fish laws. The WTPF can only be expended for the financing of reward payments, a statewide telephone reporting system under the name “Operation Game Thief”. The promotion of the public recognition and awareness of the wildlife theft prevention program, and investigations of the unlawful commercial use of wildlife.
The program in 1979, known today as the Operation Game Thief (OGT) Program was established making it the second-oldest in the nation behind New Mexico, which started in 1978. Because of the establishment of the WTPF, the ‘new’ OGT program had dedicated funding that allowed for the program to expand and become one of the nation’s leading Operation Game Thief programs.
The OGT Hotline (1-800-352-0700) has remained the same since 1979, and wildlife violations now can be reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 1979, the OGT hotline only operated from 6 AM until 10 PM.
witness sheet: how to report a violation
What number should I call?
1-800-352-0700 Operation Game Thief
Do I have to provide my name?
No. You may remain anonymous. However, if you are willing, a call back number often helps the officer with additional information you may not have relayed. In either case, your assistance and identity will remain strictly confidential and only known to Arizona Game and Fish Department law enforcement personnel.
What information do I provide?
Who, where, when and what are all important.
License Plate #:
Name, if you know the person. If not, a license plate number or watercraft registration number will do. Description of person – height/physical build, hair, eyes, facial hair, clothes, hats, equipment. Any descriptor that would help an officer pick the suspect from a crowd.
Which specific location?
Date and time observed.
What violation did you observe? How do you know?
What do I do now that I have called in?
Continue being a good witness.
Do not interfere with or attempt to stop the violator. If the officer has not yet arrived, get license plate number(s), vehicle description(s), or suspect description(s) before the violator leaves, but be subtle about it. It is also extremely helpful, if you can, take digital photos and/or video tape of the suspect(s), vehicle(s), or activity. If you need to leave, then leave. You have done your duty by calling in the information.
Can the officer cite the violator based solely on my observations?
NO. The officer must establish probable cause through his or her direct observations or evidence that supports your claim.
Will my report help even if the violator is not caught?
YES. The information helps officers predict peak violation times, locations for future patrols, and can catalyze special law enforcement projects or criminal investigations.
Reward payments – otg
Per Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rule R12-4-116, a person may claim a reward from the Department if they provide information that leads to an arrest through the Operation Game Thief Program. If more than one individual provides information or evidence that leads to an arrest for a violation, the reward payment may be divided among the individuals that provided the information. In order for the recipient to collect a reward, the original report of violation must have been through the Operation Game Thief hotline or by an Internet submission.
The Department pays cash rewards typically between $6,000 and $20,000 (or more) annually to individuals who report wild life crimes. Under law, callers can remain anonymous and their confidentiality is protected. Money for rewards comes from criminal poaching fines, civil restitution by violators who commit wildlife crimes, and donations.
The following are the criteria for minimum reward payments for information that results in an arrest for the reported violation:
- For cases that involve bighorn sheep, buffalo, elk, bald eagles, antelope, bear, deer, javelina, mountain lion, turkey, or threatened and endangered wildlife: $500
- For cases that involve other wildlife that are not covered above (fish, small game, nongame, etc.), a minimum of $50, no to exceed $150
- For cases that involve any wildlife, an additional $1,000 may be made available based on:
- The value of the information;
- The unusual value of the wildlife;
- The number of individual animals taken;
- Whether or not the individual who committed the unlawful act was arrested for commercialization of wildlife;
- Whether or not the individual who committed the unlawful act is a repeat offender.
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