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Florida Turns To Facebook To Catch Poachers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 2 (UPI) — Florida wildlife officials have turned to Facebook and other social media to catch poachers who display photos of their illegal catches.

“People go on Facebook bragging about their exploits. They think they’re protected,” Lt. George Wilson, who oversees the Internet Crimes Unit of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

An increase in the number of Internet-related calls prompted the commission to create the unit late last year.

Investigators, who sometimes create fake Facebook pages, rely on online photographs, videos and comments as evidence. The commission looks into about 10 complaints a week about people posting images of hunting and fishing out of season or breaking other wildlife laws, the Sun-Sentinel said.

The Internet Crimes Unit made 177 arrests and issued 92 warnings last year.

Tips often come from online friends, who receive a $100 reward for tips leading to misdemeanor convictions.

Tom Twyford, president of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, said he hopes wildlife investigators pursue more serious violations and show leniency in cases where people are unaware of the law.

“It’s easy to get confused,” Twyford said. “Florida’s laws are lengthy and complex.”

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