CABELL COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – For West Virginia Division of Natural Resources officers, most of their work is outdoors, but now they have a new tool: social media.
“We’re growing with the times, just like every other law enforcement agency and a lot of our crimes are being discovered online,” said Joseph Reed, Natural Resources Police Officer.
The main violation they see is simple: people hunt an animal, but don’t register it through West Virginia's electronic licensing system. It takes less than a minute to do online, but instead, they spend that time posting a picture on Facebook or Instagram.
“I would say a quarter to half of my cases are from social media, because of how prevalent it is that sportsmen or women are posting their harvest online," said Officer Reed.
Within minutes of seeing a post on social media, an officer can check to see if that person has registered game in the system. If not, their picture can turn into evidence.
“It’s always bewildering to me the people who post pictures of their game and if someone were to call in on them, they’ve pretty much provided what I need to investigate the case further,” said Officer Reed.
One illegal hunt can often stack up to several violations, with each penalty carrying a $20-$300 fine and/or 10-100 days in jail.
"A lot of our violations snowball because a lot of things that you do in one split-second causes several violations," said Officer Reed.
So before posting on Facebook, the WV DNR recommends hunters make the registration website (WVhunt.com) their first stop.
"If you have pictures of your game, the first thing that should be on your mind is, did I check in my harvest," Officer Reed recommends. "If you do, that's all we ask. It's very simple."