Hunting poachers is easier with social media

 Displayed animals at Outdoor Campus West. (KOTA TV)
Displayed animals at Outdoor Campus West. (KOTA TV) (KOTA)
Published: Aug. 5, 2019 at 11:37 AM MDT
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Next time you like a post on social media, you possibly can help catch a criminal.

But in a surprising twist, poachers are turning themselves in without even knowing it.

Law enforcement is now taking a new approach to catching poachers who are hunting animals without a license and it's through social media.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department's Turn In Poachers hotline continues to hold poachers accountable. Wildlife officers are also using new technology, instead of waiting for the hotline to ring.

Keith Wintersteen is a Naturalist at Outdoor Campus West.

Wintersteen says, "Most of the people I work with in the wildlife law enforcement field love social media because some people can't resist bragging."

Social media pictures of illegal hunts leads to more arrests and more charges against poachers.

"They would think, they're not going to catch me because I'm so sneaky,” says Wintersteen. “Believe whatever you want, but sooner or later, someone's gonna see something and they are gonna say something and you will get a knock on your door and somebody will say about this post where you have four deer laying here and you don't even have a license according to our records."

It's not just poaching - the TIPS program can help keep the Black Hills clean.

Chris Dekker is a Wildlife Conservation Officer.

"We get a wide range of tips that come in," says Dekker. “Anything from littering complaints will come in on our TIPs hotline, vandalism complaints at our game production areas or other public areas, as well as poaching complaints."

Anonymous calls through the TIPS hotline lead to more than 4-thousand arrests and almost 1-million dollars in fines.

If you see someone you think is breaking the law, just call 1-888-683-7224 or you can send an anonymous message to the Turn in Poachers Facebook page.