Nine alert Montanans were recently awarded a total of $4,000 for taking time to call 1-800-TIP-MONT, the state's violation hotline that's not just for poachers anymore. The reported crimes involved illegally killed fish and wildlife but also included wasted game, driving in a closed area on national forest land, and Montana residency violations.
"The increasing number of tips on wildlife- and recreation-related violations is a signal that Montanans will not tolerate the damage that's being done to our natural resources and to our public lands and facilities, " said Debbie Bingham, TIP-MONT coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Helena. "We answer a lot more calls today reporting violations at fishing access sites, at our State Parks, and even in our national forests than in the past."
The 1-800-TIP-MONT program's board of directors annually distribute rewards for phone-call tips that help to apprehend and convict violators of Montana's fish, game, and parks regulations. More than 1,100 TIP-MONT calls were made in 2001.
In 1985, the Montana Legislature authorized FWP to establish a toll-free fish and game violation hotline--1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668)--and to offer rewards to callers. In 1997 the Legislature expanded the authority of FWP to offer rewards for tips on violations that occur in State Parks. In 2001, the U.S. Forest Service signed an agreement to allow FWP take TIP-MONT calls on violations that occur on national forest lands. Calls reporting violations on national forest lands are forwarded to the USFS rangers for response.
"It is essential in trying to solve crimes that involve our fish, wildlife, State Parks and U. S. Forest Service lands that callers contact us immediately when they witness a violation," Bingham said. "Callers help the most when they give us as much specific information as they possibly can. And, the sooner we can begin working on a case, the better the chance we’ll solve it," Bingham said.Over the years, thousands of tips about suspected violations have been received on the hotline from both inside and outside of Montana. The 1-800-TIP-MONT hotline operates 24 hours a day and callers can remain anonymous, do not have to testify in court and may receive a reward.