Mar 3, 2014 3:17 PM by AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The state paid $18,000 in rewards last year to those whose tips helped arrest 68 people accused of killing protected animals, poaching and other wildlife violations, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Enforcement division spokesman Adam Einck said Operation Game Thief reviewed 47 cases and gave rewards in 41 considered flagrant violations. Four cases brought more than one tipster, so in all 48 people were paid for their tips, he said in an email.
Last year's largest total reward, including $7,000 from other sources, was $8,000 to three people whose tips led to the arrest of a man accused of killing a young Louisiana black bear - a threatened species - on Nov. 27, 2012, in Avoyelles Parish. The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave $3,500 each toward that reward.
Derek P. Sayer was convicted in July of illegally taking a Louisiana black bear. He was sentenced Aug. 8 to pay $10,000 in restitution for the bear, a $900 fine, $249 court costs and two years of probation with hunting privileges revoked, Einck said.
Overall, Einck said most of the cases were turkey, deer and alligator violations.
A $15,000 reward, using money put up by numerous donors, for information leading to the arrest of whoever killed a whooping crane last April in Red River Parish has gone unclaimed so far. A separate $15,000 reward, again put together by several groups and individuals, is being offered for tips leading to the arrest in the case of two whooping cranes killed this year in Jefferson Davis Parish.
The department originally said those rewards were for arrests and convictions. Einck says that was incorrect.
"By doing a thorough investigation, we are able to screen good and bad tips. We don't require a conviction after an arrest because at that point a number of things can happen that is out of enforcement's control," he wrote.
Einck says last year's tips led to 68 arrests on a total of 294 offenses. He says Operation Game Thief doesn't keep track of the number convicted.
Louisiana Operation Game Thief has paid a total of $342,700 - an average of $11,800 a year - since it was created in 1984.
Its hotline number is 1-800-442-2511. People also can text LADWF and tips to 847411 - that's "tip411" - or download a free "LADWF Tips" app. Texts and the app allow the user to send photos that could be used as evidence, and the department can answer, creating an anonymous chat.
CitizenObserver, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before the department gets a text, so the department cannot identify the sender.