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Trespass? In South Dakota, there's a ticket for that

Brad Baumgartner, GF&P wildlife damage specialist, sits in his truck trying to spot a coyote out in a field east of Howard on Thursday morning. (Matt Gade/Republic)

MITCHELL, S.D. — Poachers, beware.

Hunters trespassing and anglers fishing without a license continue to be the most-issued citations by state conservation officers.

According to a recently released report by the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department, there was a 17 percent increase in violations reported by state wildlife officers in 2016 compared to the previous year.

And what stuck out to GF&P Law Enforcement Program Administrator Andy Alban was another year with a high number of "intentional violations," including people who knowingly trespass and those who cast a lure without buying a license.

"The fact is there are still folks out there that really don't employ a sense of ethics," Alban said. "It gives everybody else, the law-abiding citizens, a bad name."

GF&P's 81 statewide conservation officers reported a total of 2,515 violations in 2016, of which 830 were an assortment of hunting violations and 529 were angling. The report was released last week, Alban said, because it takes significant time to finalize and prosecute some cases.

State conservation officers reported 173 trespass violations in 2016, an increase of 15 percent compared to 2015. There are two types of trespass, unknowing and knowing.

"Sometimes the temptation to jump on the other side of that fence is just too much for some individuals," Alban said.

GF&P made 33,078 field contacts with anglers in 2016, when 231 fishing without a license violations were issued. That's a 4.5 percent decrease from 2015.

Alban said there are cases in which anglers just forget to renew their license, but the vast majority are those who try and "get by" without buying one.

"There's a percentage of folks who may not be avid fishermen who say this is the only time I'm going to go this year and I'm not going to purchase a license," Alban said.

Other highlights from GF&P's 2016 annual law enforcement report:

• Conservation officers are now using body cameras, which help with evidence and training purposes, Alban said. "With the system we have, it makes it easy to forward to the various state's attorneys, because anymore video evidence isn't the exception but the norm," he said. "It really has helped attorneys do their jobs when they have that first-hand evidence."

• There was a 66 percent increase in the total number of drug-related violations issued in 2016 compared to 2015, jumping from 131 to 218 last year. There were 89 reported violations of drug use or possession of paraphernalia. "That's been something we've seen an uptick in across all law enforcement," Alban said. "The uses of drugs and controlled substances have just been on the rise. It's unfortunate, so we continue to make sure our officers are able to handle those. While that's not our primary mission, our officers are certified law enforcement officers so they need to be able to handle those when they come across this."

• There were 11 game checks in 2016, but Alban did not have the breakdown of citations issued. "We'll most certainly continue to do those, and the numbers fluctuate from year to year on those based on sometimes personnel, and sometimes a game population," Alban said.

• In 2015, the most-common watercraft violation was not having a sufficient number of personal floatation devices. Last year, that became the second-most reported violation behind aquatic invasive species — watercraft restrictions. "Probably the biggest violation is not removing the boat plug for the drain of water," Alban said. "That's not just a law enforcement effort. That's a total department effort statewide to get the word out."

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