By Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency continues to crack down on poaching by imposing huge fines – thousands of dollars in some big-game cases – but at times the public is frustrated in its attempts to report violations.

Many if not most residents have no idea how to contact their local game warden to report a poaching incident, and some who try are often frustrated by the process.

The TWRA’s Hunting and Fishing guidebook (available for free at most outdoors outlets) lists a number for reporting hunting/fishing violations in each its four regions. In Region II, which encompasses Middle Tennessee, the number is: 1-800-255-8972.

TWRA game wardens and other officials are available to the public for assistance.

The problem with the so-called Poaching Hotline is that it is not manned around the clock.

For example, if someone calls late at night to report a suspected deer poacher, chances are they will get a recording: “Leave a message with your name, number and other information and we’ll get back to you.”

Obviously by then the poacher will be long gone.

A TWRA spokesperson, asked about the efficiency of the system, says callers should not be discouraged. She says every call that comes in will eventually be listened to and the information acted on.

When a call is received – either live or on the recording – an Agency official will contact the game warden in the area in which the violation is reported and pass along the information. The warden then contacts the person who placed the call and collects as much information and evidence as possible.

Even if the poacher is not immediately apprehended, the warden will file away the information for future reference: for example, a possible description of the poacher’s vehicle and the general area in which he operates.

The same procedure applies for reporting nuisance wildlife. Call the TWRA, give the information, and it will be acted on as deemed appropriate. (In the case of coyotes, the animals have become so abundant that the Agency is unable to respond to most complaints.)

If a wild animal presents a threat or concern that requires immediate attention, local law-enforcement authorities should be contacted.

TWRA regulations require trappers to put tags on otter and bobcat pelts before they can be sold. The tags are provided by the local game warden. But to contact the warden, unless the trapper knows him personally, he has to go through the Agency.

Obtaining the trapping tags, like reporting poachers or nuisance wildlife, can be a time-consuming, cumbersome process.

Some suggest publishing the name and contact number for every game warden in every county – perhaps listing them in the Hunting and Fishing guide books – to make them readily available to the public.

The drawback to publishing wardens’ phone numbers is that it would be open to abuse; someone with a grudge could make harassing calls to a warden’s home at all hours.

Wilson County’s game warden is Tanner Romsdale. Trousdale County’s is Ethan Davis. I’ve interviewed Romsdale and, like every other TWRA warden I’ve talked with over the years, he is dedicated to his job and eager to serve. I’m convinced that once a warden receives information about a complaint, they will act on it.

The TWRA assures the public it will get the information to him.