Ask a Conservation Officer: How to report a violation
Q: I observed a violation and want to report it to a conservation officer. What is the best way to go about this, and what should I do?
A: Contacting a CO about a perceived violation of game and fish or recreational law is very similar to making a call to a "regular" law enforcement agency; responding officers need as much info as reasonably possible describing what happened and who was involved, including information to identify possible violators, violations, vehicles, locations and times.
The primary number for reporting game and fish violations is the Turn-In-Poachers (TIP) hotline at (800) 652-9093 or #TIP on your cell phone. This number is answered 24 hours a day and will help route the needed information to the appropriate officer.
There are several things that the public can do to make the job of a responding officer easier, and more likely successful in addressing the violation:
• Do provide vehicle descriptions, license plate or registration numbers, clothing descriptions, times of day, directions of travel, and other specific facts.
• Do call the TIP line promptly; calls regarding issues that happened days or weeks ago aren't likely to lead to a resolution.
• Do provide your contact information so the responding officer can contact you if more information is needed. There are ways to keep this information anonymous if you don't want your name to be involved later, but resolution of the incident may require the officer to contact you in the meantime.
• Don't tell the would-be violator that you "called the cops" or "called the warden." Though this may make you feel good or stop their behavior, it probably will lead to a destruction of evidence or the violator leaving the area, making the CO's job that much harder.
• Don't try to take action or intervene in the matter yourself. This could lead to a physical confrontation or later retribution. Law enforcement officers are trained to deal with a multitude of situations.
The job of a conservation officer is successful only with the help and participation of our ethical participating public. The future of our resources and outdoor activities depends on you.
Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.