Rewards for Reporting Importation Breakers

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To help enforce Texas Parks and Wildlife's recent suspension on white-tailed and mule deer importation, Texas' privately funded wildlife "crime stoppers" program, 'Operation Game Thief,' is offering rewards of up to $10,000 for information that results in the arrest and conviction of those violating the suspension on importation.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted during an emergency meeting March 11 to suspend importation of the animals.

OGT Committee Chairman Art Guerra said, "the committee feels very strongly that this issue is important to all the citizens of this state and we hope the increased amount of this reward posting will encourage everyone to be on the lookout for any activity in violation of this ban." (OGT's usual maximum reward for information leading to arrest and conviction on game and fish-related crimes is $1,000.)

The TPW Commission's action to suspend the importation was taken in consideration of the recent emergence and spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which has been documented in several other states in both captive and free-ranging deer populations. According to Jerry Cooke, Ph.D and TPW Game Branch Chief, Chronic Wasting Disease is a form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to Mad Cow Disease, except that CWD has only been found in elk and certain other deer. He said the disease causes a degeneration of brain tissue in affected animals.

Buddy Turner, Assistant Chief of Wildlife Enforcement at TPW, said "since the imported animals typically come into our state via our roadways, routine travelers and people working in truck stops, convenience stores and restaurants may well see suspect activity."

Typically, these deer are transported in livestock trailers with the exterior covered by boards vented with holes. However, vented box-type trailers, 18-wheelers and even air-conditioned specialty trailers are also used.

"Folks should keep a watchful eye and if something doesn't look right, call either the OGT reward hot-line at 800 792-GAME (4263), or contact a local game warden through your area sheriff's department," Turner said.

For more information on the OGT program, visit (www.ogttx.com)