AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is offering rewards of up to $1,000 for Texans who report poaching of alligator snapping turtles through Texas’ wildlife crime-stoppers program, Operation Game Thief (OGT). Thanks to additional funds from the agency’s Conservation License Plate Program, the reward can be doubled if the tip leads to convictions for snapping turtle cases.
The alligator snapping turtle is a freshwater turtle that resembles a small alligator with a ridged shell. Their range extends from the eastern part of Texas to Florida, and as far north as Ohio. They are listed as a threatened species and harvesting these turtles is illegal in Texas.“The high survivorship and long lives of adults makes populations of alligator snapping turtles very sensitive to the removal of even a small number of breeding adults,” said Paul Crump, TPWD Herpetologist. “That is why Texas prohibited collection of this species back in the ’80s and why we need the help of Texans who work and spend time on the rivers in East Texas to reduce poaching. We want to keep this species around to help maintain our healthy rivers and streams.”The TPWD Conservation License Plate program has raised about $11.6 million in the last 22 years, providing funding directly to benefit fishing, Texas rivers, state parks, big game research and nongame species management. The sale of nongame wildlife themed license plates such as the horned lizard, monarch butterfly, hummingbird and rattlesnake help conserve wildlife diversity by funding a vast array of projects. Visit the TPWD Conservation License Plate website to learn more about how to get a conservation plate and how funds benefit Texas wildlife.OGT typically offers up to $1,000 for information leading to a conviction for a wildlife crime. Now with the additional funds from the Conservation Licenses Plate program, rewards for alligator snapping turtle tips may be increased to up to $2,000. OGT began in 1981 because of laws passed by the 67th Legislature to help curtail poaching. The program, a function of the Law Enforcement Division of TPWD, is highly successful, having been responsible for the raising and distribution of funds used to pay rewards, purchase equipment and provide services to aid Texas Game Wardens since its inception. “OGT is proud to be part of a concerted effort, along with the TPWD Wildlife Division and the Conservation License Plate Program, to give at-risk species the spotlight they deserve in return for the value they hold to Texas, its citizens and visitors,” said Stormy King, Assistant Commander of Wildlife Enforcement. “With funds provided by this effort, we were recently able to match a $1,000 OGT reward and deliver $2,000 to an anonymous caller who helped convict a turtle poacher. Hopefully, word gets out.”Help fight against illegal hunting and fishing and other wildlife crimes in Texas by anonymously reporting tips that assist game wardens in apprehending individuals in violation of state law. To report tips to OGT, please call (800) 792-GAME (4263).