Operation Game Thief (OGT) is a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish program that offers rewards to citizens who turn in poachers. The OGT program is a Crime Stoppers program for wildlife. Operation Game Thief began here in New Mexico in 1977. The program was modeled after the first Crime Stoppers program, which the Albuquerque Police Department created. Today, Operation Game Thief, or a similar program, has now been adopted by nearly every state in the U.S.
During the 1970s, most state game and fish departments worked under the misconception that poachers were not criminals. A majority of the public at the time still excused the game violator by continuing to believe that they only poached to “feed their family” or that the level of the illegally killed game was insignificant. In 1975, the Department initiated a study to determine how significant poaching was in New Mexico.
After the research project, it was clear that the out-of-season deer kills were quite significant. It was estimated in the neighborhood of 34,000 deer were poached every year in New Mexico. Similar studies in other states produced comparable results and indicated there were as many deer being killed illegally as legally. The game violator attributed his success in avoiding apprehension to two primary reasons: the officer’s districts were too big, and the Department wasn’t getting any help from the public.
The OGT hotline is set up to take information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure that we capture any details someone may have about a wildlife crime or violation. All calls to OGT are confidential, and the reporting individual has the option to remain anonymous. If you are unsure you witnessed an actual violation, the best thing to do is report it and let us decide.
How does the system work?
- Anyone having information relating to a wildlife law violation can contact the Operation Game Thief hotline. You may do this by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-432-GAME (4263), or submitting an online report at www.wildlife.state.nm.us. Details regarding the incident are taken, and the caller is assigned a code number.
- The information is relayed to an officer who immediately initiates an investigation.
- If a poacher is arrested or issued a citation based on the information provided by the caller, a reward is authorized.
- The payment is arranged to protect the anonymity of the caller. Rewards can be paid in cash, check or money order. We have found that in many cases wildlife enthusiasts do not expect the reward; they want the criminals stopped.
The program receives, on average, 200 calls per year, with the average payout being $485 per reward, although not every caller wants to receive a reward for calling in.
If you suspect a wildlife crime has occurred, please call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-432-GAME (4263), or visit www.wildlife.state.nm.us. Remember, poachers are stealing your wildlife.