DNR Says Tougher Penalties for Needed to Stop Hunters from Tresp - WSPA.com

DNR Says Tougher Penalties for Needed to Stop Hunters from Trespassing

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Hunters are crossing into forbidden territory and trespassing on private property. Now the Department of Natural Resources is putting out the word that it’s getting out of control and landowners like Shelton Pace and his family, don’t feel safe.

“I purchase land so my family can enjoy recreation whether that's hunting, fishing or riding ATV’s and when you bring people into the equation, carrying firearms or trespassing, it provides an unsafe environment for all of us to be in,” said Pace.

Trespassing is becoming a major problem for DNR officers, Officer Bradley Miller tells 7 On Your Side.

He said they see it every single day on patrol but they cannot use all of their time to catch the hunters and write tickets each time.

“These tracks of land are big and we can't devote all our time looking for one trespasser,” said Miller.

DNR has done the math. Officers found more than 1600 calls, statewide, for trespassing in the past year and more than 50 in Greenville and Spartanburg Counties each.

He said there's likely double that number of unreported calls from people who call officers individually to come and check out their land.

Miller said he thinks the penalty is weak and tougher laws could help.

“I think if we raised the prices of these tickets it would put a dent in it, the word would get out it's not a simple charge anymore. It's constant and we want to crack down on it,” said Miller.

Officers also started a program Operation Game Thief.

It's free, you simply put signs on your property and DNR can prosecute anyone they catch on your land, so you don't have to.

“Turkey season 2012 I was hunting had a gentleman walk up to me trespassing up inside 5 feet,” said Pace.

DNR said hunters would rather take the chance pay $100 for getting caught on someone else's land rather than the hundreds or thousands to join a hunt club.

DNR wants you to stay off other people's property, bottom line.

If you're walking or on an ATV the land owner should have no trespassing signs posted. If your hunting, trapping or fishing no signs are necessary.

For someone who works to keep their land private, it's an important thing for me,” said Pace.

State lawmakers expressed interest in strengthening the fine for trespassing too.

Earlier this month, a Senate panel approved a bill that would raise trespass-to-hunt fines from $500 to $1000.

The fine can be no more than $2500. A similar bill was stalled in the house.

Here is more information about Operation Game Thief from the DNR website:

Poachers steal your natural resources!

In May of 1999, one call to Operation Game Thief prompted a statewide investigation that identified over two hundred Natural Resources Laws violations. These unlawful acts included the illegal sale of freshwater gamefish, of saltwater fisheries products, possession and size limit violations, and others. DNR Officers seized over 1,300 pounds of natural resource products destined for illegal sale as a result of this one call.

Operation Game Thief is a program designed to allow you to get involved in the protection of your South Carolina natural resources. With the information and donations provided by concerned citizens, like yourself, Operation Game Thief assists DNR in the protection of South Carolina's wildlife, fish, coastal, and other resources. Rewards of up to $500 are paid to persons providing information leading to the arrest of natural resource law violators. In addition to supporting the rewards system, donations to the program pay for the toll-free, round-the-clock telephone reporting system.

For a brochure and application to join this program, please call
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