Wildlife poaching uncovered in North Carolina and Georgia

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I received a press release today concerning an undercover wildlife operation in two states. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission exposed poaching and other illegal hunting activity.

Over 80 violators were uncovered, involving about 900 violations, including illegal bear baiting, illegal taking of bears, deer and other wildlife, illegal use of dogs and the operation of illegal bear enclosures.

The Release:

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RALEIGH, N.C. (Feb. 20, 2013) — State and federal wildlife officials announced today an undercover operation involving more than 80 wildlife violators and as many as 900 wildlife violations detected.

Primary violations stem from illegal bear hunting but include an array of wildlife and game law charges. The investigation continues and more charges are possible.

The four-year investigation targeted poachers in North Carolina and Georgia, with some work in adjacent states.

Officers with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission infiltrated poaching circles to document violations including bear baiting, illegal take of bears, deer and other wildlife, illegal use of dogs, operation of illegal bear enclosures in North Carolina, and guiding hunts on national forest lands without the required permits.

Officers began making arrests Tuesday. Operation Something Bruin partners also include the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

“Operation Something Bruin documented hundreds of wildlife violations,” said Col. Dale Caveny, law enforcement chief for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “These arrests bring an immediate halt to those crimes and, we hope, will make would-be violators think twice before breaking the law.”

Simultaneous press conferences were held this morning in Asheville, N.C., and Gainesville, Ga., to announce the results of the four-year undercover operation.

“Wildlife is a shared public resource and conservation is a shared responsibility” said Gordon Myers, executive director of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “North Carolinians can assist wildlife enforcement officers in their duties by reporting possible violations. We all have a vested interest in safeguarding wildlife from poaching. By targeting wildlife thieves, Operation Something Bruin helps protect our outdoor heritage and conserves wildlife for future generations.”

Learn more at www.operationsomethingbruin.org.

REPORT POACHING: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that fewer than 10 percent of all wildlife crimes are reported. Help change that trend and protect the wildlife we all enjoy. When you see or hear of a possible violation in North Carolina call 1-800-662-7137.

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More quotes from the release:

“We take very seriously our duty to investigate the unlawful take of wildlife, and we regularly partner with our state and federal conservation law enforcement agencies to coordinate and share assets and information to accomplish that mission in the most effective way possible. We also want to thank our fellow law enforcement agents and officers who have worked so diligently over the past four years to counter the illegal poaching of black bears, and we are hopeful that this makes a long-term impact that results in increased protection of the black bear.”

Luis Santiago, special agent in charge for the Southeast Region, Office of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

“It was natural for us to participate in this operation, because we have a long history of cooperation with state wildlife agencies to protect game lands and management areas. Because we already have these existing collaborative relationships, we were able to move seamlessly into this joint undercover operation, and keep it going for the necessary timeframes. We were all able to care for the land, its resources and serve the public. This was a win-win for everyone involved – except, of course, for the bad guys.”

Steven F. Ruppert, special agent in charge, Southern Region, U.S. Forest Service

“We have learned that conserving black bears and other wildlife resources requires us to protect them across their range. This operation is a testament to the success that is achieved when neighboring state and federal conservation agencies come together to ensure that our wildlife heritage is conserved for future generations to enjoy.”

Clayton Jordan, chief ranger, Great Smoky Mountains National Park