photo of a pronghorn antelope that's been harvested illegally

How to recognize and report poaching in the field

Filling someone else’s tag, hunting out of season are common violations
Yvonne Shaw
August 10, 2020

Poachers devastate mule deer herds in southeastern Oregon and brazenly shoot bighorn sheep in the north. Poaching is a problem in Oregon as hunters lose opportunities.

To report poaching call *OSP or 1-800-452-7888

Poaching is defined as taking/killing a fish or animal illegally, and can take many forms. Hunting without a license or tag, exceeding the bag limit, hunting out of season, hunting at night, filling someone else’s tag – all are examples of poaching.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed legislation directing the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Police and Department of Justice to work together on a plan to improve the reporting, enforcement and prosecution of poaching activities. Learn more about this new campaign. [link to news release]

Here’s where you come in. ODFW biologists and OSP troopers can’t be everywhere. They depend on hunters, anglers and other wildland users to report poaching and other suspicious behavior they see in the field.

How to identify poachers in the field

On roads:

  • Vehicles casting light onto the area next to the road. “Spotlighting” deer from a vehicle while in possession of firearms is illegal.
  • Vehicles traveling very quickly (escaping) or very slowly (cruising) near wildland areas.
  • Unoccupied vehicles that look like they were parked carelessly or in a hurry in a wildlife area.
  • Blood trails or drips from a vehicle tailgate or trunk, indicating an animal is being transported.

On trails:

  • Hearing shots fired in hunting off-season or at night.
  • People carrying weapons (rifles or bows) in off-seasons, or on private property you suspect does not allow hunting.
  • A group of armed people walking together into a wildlife area (illegal group hunting).
  • Any evidence of wildlife being caught, killed or removed from areas closed to hunting (parks, safety zones, etc.).
    photo of a poached elk head/horns confiscated by OR state police
    This illegally harvested elk was confiscated by Oregon State Police

In the back country, off-trail:

  • Animal carcasses with only the head/feet/claws/antlers/horns removed. This is “trophy taking” and is illegal. It also indicates wildlife parts trafficking.  
  • Game animals that have little to no edible meat removed. They are illegally left to waste.  
  • Sign of animal remains trying to be covered up or hidden. Some predators and scavengers will do this, but some poachers will also attempt to bury, burn or otherwise disguise evidence of their crimes.
  • Finding multiple piles of guts, bones or hair in one location. Indicates mass killings, which don’t happen with regular hunting.

How to report possible poaching

If you suspect poaching, the best thing to do is be a good witness. Do not confront suspected poachers! Instead, take a photo of the vehicle’s license plate; note what they are wearing; document identifying boat names or numbers; take cell phone video if it is safe to do so

Call the OSP TIP Line – dial *OSP or 1-800-452-7888 to report suspicious behavior that might be linked to poaching.

The Turn In Poachers Line (TIP Line) directs calls to OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers who patrol the area. If someone who poaches fish and game animals is convicted, the person who reported them can receive either a cash reward or hunting preference points.  

Yvonne Shaw is the ODFW anti-poaching campaign coordinator