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Operation Game Thief

Operation 'Game Thief' Protects Wildlife


March 1, 2024


Poaching 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

OGT History: 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.

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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.

Twenty-Four Hours A Day

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.

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Reader Comments(1)

Publisher writes:

Illegals have made this a major problem along our Southern borders.


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