The Arizona Game and Fish Department reports a record number of wildlife violations in 2009, including 416 big-game poaching violations. In other words, people were illegally shooting or trapping animals.
In total, there were 768 total violations reported to AGFD's Operation Game Thief program, an increase of 317 from 2008.
AGFD officials say the majority of violations were "monetarily motivated."
Or maybe the majority of violators, in this economy, were out of a job and decided to go back to killing their food? Just saying...
The officials also say violators assume they won't get caught. Of the 768 violations, AGFD solved only 39 cases, so it seems they're are right.
"As with many poaching cases, we need help from the public. Often times these crimes are committed in remote locations without many people around," says Officer Ken Dinquel, who operates Operation Game Thief. "Still, someone may have been in the area and may have seen or heard something associated with these cases."
AGFD offers rewards of up to $8,000 to people who report violations that result in an arrest. In 2009, the department paid out about $14,000 to people who reported violations.
If you want to get a piece of the poaching action without actually poaching animals, you can blow the whistle on possible poachers by calling the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-352-0700.