State wildlife officers are constantly investigating cases in which outdoor enthusiasts are illegally claiming residency to hunt and fish in South Dakota.
The cases are "somewhat difficult" and take significant time to prosecute, according to Andy Alban, South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks law enforcement program administrator.
"We get a lot of tips and direct information from individuals, because it becomes a fairness issue, especially when it comes to big game licenses," Alban said while discussing GF&P's recently released 2017 annual law enforcement report.
The report reviews the work and initiatives of South Dakota conservation officers. During 2017, there were 22 "fraud to obtain" hunting license violations. Alban said typically people are renting or buying small "fixer-upper" homes in South Dakota and claiming that as their domicile, even though they live in another state.
There were also six 2017 cases in which a person purchased a resident license before the minimum amount of days was up. To apply for a resident license in South Dakota, a person must have a domicile - their permanent home - within South Dakota for at least 90 days. "Fraud to obtain" a license is a Class 1 misdemeanor and includes the loss of hunting and fishing privileges for one year.
"I'm sure there were more incidents and investigations," Alban said. "These cases are (time consuming) when you have to look at where somebody lives and how long they've lived there."
Last year, South Dakota's conservation officers made about 42,800 field contacts with outdoor recreationalists, including anglers, hunters, trappers and people at state parks. There were 2,465 violations, 743 of which were hunting-related and 566 of which were fishing-related. Conservation officers issued 1,644 written warnings.
As usual, the most frequent violation was trespassing, of which there were 144 offenses. There are two types of trespass: unknowing and knowing. The report showed GF&P issued 2 percent fewer tickets than in 2016 but increased its field contacts by 29 percent.
Alban pointed out the successful year for the Turn-In-Poachers (TIPs) program last year. The nonprofit organization helped investigate 364 cases, resulting in 227 arrests, which fined violators $32,315.
One Lincoln County case utilized Snapchat to apprehend four people who shot two deer and small game out of season.
"What I don't like, and we're always going to have this to some extent, but it makes ethical and legal outdoorsmen and women in a negative light when that's broadcast further on social media," Alban said.
Another TIPs case highlighted in the report showed three people were charged with shooting deer at night with artificial light during a closed season. More than $1,700 in fines and $6,000 in civil damages were issued.
The report also shows that GF&P conducted five road checks in 2017 - one for fish, two for small game/waterfowl and two for big game. Approximately 270 vehicles were screened and inspected, and 67 violations were detected.
"The comments we get from the public is, 'Why don't you do more of these?'" Alban said. "Sometimes it becomes a planning and personnel matter, but we're continuously looking for ways to utilize these types of tools."