Recently, I attended a meeting of some local landowners and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officers at a site in western Sumter County.
The reason for the meeting was to discuss options for securing rural …
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The reason for the meeting was to discuss options for securing rural properties after a series of trespassing and poaching incidents.
Landowners Hugh Ryan, Marvin Davant and Feed Mill Hunt Club President Chas Bostic attended.
SCDNR First Sgt. Sidney Rainwater and Lance Cpl. Ed Laney gave some insight on the state laws regarding trespassing and poaching and offered some advice for dealing with law breakers.
Sgt. Rainwater is a team member of Staff Operations that manages the Operation Game Thief, Coastal Watch and Property Watch programs. Officer Ed Laney is a Sumter County game warden.
They pointed out that poaching is more than a nuisance for landowners and property managers. It is a violation of property rights, stealing of our natural resources and a safety concern.
They noted that the best way to keep trespassers and poachers from violating rural property is to make some kind of a presence there. That doesn't mean that you have to be there in person all the time. There are some steps that landowners and hunt club managers can do to keep the land secure.
Poachers will generally look for easy targets. Land that is held by an out-of-town owner, that doesn't get much use, is a prime target. If the owner or manager is unable to visit the property often, they can have someone local check on the land for them. Tire tracks on driveways and woods roads will show that the property is being used.
Posting the property boundaries with "No Trespassing" signs is important. It takes away a trespasser's excuse that they didn't know they were across a boundary or on private land. Install well-constructed gates, with strong locks, on entrance roads.
Install trail cameras or a surveillance system. A time-stamped photo of a poacher could be enough for an arrest and conviction. Think of it as "hard evidence."
Call the local game warden and introduce yourself. Invite the person out to the property. Put his or her number in your cellphone. Wardens can't watch the property for you all the time, but a good relationship helps when a problem is discovered. An officer will work with a landowner on how he wants to handle problems.
What should a landowner or manager do if a trespasser or poacher is encountered? If at all possible, avoid confrontation. Gather as much information as possible about his or her appearance, weapon, vehicle or anything else that may be pertinent. Contact SCDNR at the Operation Game Thief hotline number 1-800-922-5431.
The SCDNR Property Watch Program offers an additional level of protection for rural landowners and property managers. Authorization is given to allow SCDNR to prosecute violations of trespassing upon the enrolled property, without the presence of the landowner, lessee or authorized representative. An application form to enroll a property can be found on the SCDNR website.
There is no cost to enroll a property. The program is funded by donations and sign sales. Property Watch signs and membership cards are available for a small fee and can be ordered online. For more information, call the Law Enforcement Division at (803) 734-4002.
I have used the Property Watch Program on a timber company lease that I held in Clarendon County. It made an immediate and tremendous impact on the security of the property. I've had poaching and trespassing problems on my own property in Clarendon County, and I can't be there all the time, so I plan to enroll the land in the program. I can even enroll adjoining properties that belong to relatives with their written permission.
The Property Watch Program will help make a presence on a rural property.
Reach Dan Geddings at email@example.com.
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