SANTA FE – New Mexicans soon will be seeing more Department of Game and Fish conservation officers in the field with the creation of a special strike force designed to deter poaching and combat illegal hunting and fishing, waste of game and exceeding bag limits. Initiated by State Game Commission Chairman Guy Riordan, plans for the Anti-Poaching Strike Force call for the Department to readjust some personnel tasks and use all of its existing law-enforcement capabilities year-round. “With this plan, we are sending a message to poachers: Plundering New Mexico’s fish and wildlife is a crime we take very seriously,” Riordan said. “We’re going to do everything we can to catch and prosecute people who disrespect the precious natural resources that are so important to our quality of life and to the economic health of our communities, especially in rural areas.” Riordan emphasized that the strike force will provide more protection for wildlife, especially when animals such as deer and elk are most vulnerable on their winter ranges. The plan supports Governor Bill Richardson’s efforts to provide more conservation officers, as recommended in his budget. The plan, to begin March 1, will put an additional 40 commissioned officers in the field part-time to strategically supplement the efforts of about 60 field conservation officers whose primary duties are to ensure people are complying with game and fish laws. Those 40 officers carry law-enforcement certification but have specialized duties in biology, fisheries, habitat, game management and manager responsibilities. The plan will require them to dedicate time year round to conservation law enforcement. This effort will provide more than 6,000 hours of added fish and wildlife protection and conservation officer proficiency development annually statewide. “We are fortunate to have 100 fully trained law enforcement officers to call upon to help combat this growing problem,” Riordan said. “In the past year, we’ve investigated cases of poachers killing deer for their heads and leaving the carcasses to rot. We’ve had cases of people counterfeiting hunting licenses, and we’ve had cases of people hunting illegally on one of our most pristine nature preserves. This strike force should help deter some of those illegal activities.” Strike force duties will include assisting regular field officers in: Saturation patrols in designated areas of the state during hunting seasons. Special operations such as night patrols, decoy operations and angler patrols. Patrolling districts and responding to calls when regular district officers are unavailable or busy with other calls during hunting seasons. Patrolling “violation hotspots” frequented by poachers out of season. Patrolling areas and waters that may be understaffed while district officers are busy with activities such as wildlife surveys, trapping operations or training. Encouraging citizen participation in reporting violations. Riordan emphasized that the strike force will operate with existing resources while maintaining the Department’s excellent customer services and other responsibilities.

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