Operation Game Thief is Texas’ wildlife Crime-stoppers program, offering rewards of up to $1,000.00 for information leading to the arrest and conviction for a wildlife crime. Begun in 1981 as a result of laws passed by the 67th Legislature to help curtail poaching, the program, a function of the law enforcement division of Texas Parks and Wildlife, is highly successful in fighting poachers.
In the last ten years OGT has provided over $600,000 in grants to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) for the purchase of specialized and technologically advanced equipment for Texas game wardens. Privately funded, the program is dependent on financial support from the public through the purchase of OGT memberships and merchandise, donations, sponsorships, and gifts.
Operation Game Thief was created by a statute passed by the 67 th Legislature in 1981 through the efforts of former Speaker of the House, Gib Lewis, who has served on the Operation Game Thief Board since its creation. Initially intended solely to be a crime stoppers program issuing rewards for information leading to the conviction of significant game law violators, OGT has worked through public service advertising to make poaching less acceptable and has led efforts to increase penalties for poaching and other relevant crimes. These efforts have resulted in a dramatic reduction in such crimes in Texas.
Perhaps the most visible part of our effort to get the “Stop Poaching” message out is our Wall of Shame Trailer [put some photos here] and smaller regional trailers. Each of these trailers is designed to exhibit to our friends at various outdoors fairs, schools and dozens of other events the Game Wardens visit just why OGT is so important. The trailers contain mounted animals and fish, including a Whooping Crane, huge Whitetail and Muledeer bucks, Eagles and Hawks, Alligators and Turtles, Bears and Fish. Every animal exhibited was the victim of a poacher or other game law violator and recovered through the hard work of our Game Wardens. These animals are the natural resources of our State that its citizens deserve to enjoy through hunting, fishing or just hiking and photography. The illegal taking of these wonderful animals is
a serious crime, not a prank.
Operation Game Thief is independent of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, but works closely with and in coordination with the Law Enforcement Division of the TPWD. Thus, in recent years, OGT’s statutory authority has been amended to allow it to pay immediate financial aid in the amount of $25,000 to the families of Game Wardens and Park Police Officers who are killed in the line of duty.
In addition, OGT now is able to make grants to the Law Enforcement Division for the purpose of providing the Game Wardens with equipment they are not able to obtain through normal state budgetary processes. In this way, OGT has provided the Game Wardens with needed equipment, including night vision goggles, GPS mapping equipment, photography and video surveillance gear, enhanced communications technology, body armor and underwater side scan sonar for quickly locating drowning victims.
Since Operation Game Thief is not a state agency and is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) entity, it receives on tax dollars from the State of Texas. To the contrary, the completion of OGT’s mission is entirely dependent on donations from the public. The principal source of funds in recent years has been the popular OGT Clay Stoppers sporting clay shoots held each year in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and, beginning in 2019, the Dallas/Ft.Worth area.
For more information on the Operation Game Thief program, contact Lt. Jason Jones at 512-389-4628. To find out more about the Operation Game Thief click here.