Game Warden Chronicles: A Dating App Helps Catch Whitetail Poacher

Photos on dating apps can often be revealing in more ways than one. A potential online relationship took quite a turn when a game warden saw the photo of a woman's "bigo buck" she shot illegally.

Game Warden Chronicles: A Dating App Helps Catch Whitetail Poacher

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are protecting the identity of the woman charged with multiple counts of wildlife violations after revealing the image to a game warden on a dating app. (Photo: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation)

Social media won't replace boots-on-the-ground investigative work by game wardens, but it's another tool for them to use with all the posts and photos by hunters and anglers on various sites.

That includes dating apps that include a wide range of background information, photos and chatting capabilities between users interested in each other. Some users provide a lot of details while others are more conservative with their backgrounds.

A conservation officer in Oklahoma learned that firsthand when he chatted with a woman, investigated her background and then charged her with multiple wildife violations.

Veteran outdoor writer Kelly Bostian outlined the dating app-aided whitetail takedown in the Tulsa World, describing the woman's bragging about her "bigo buck" as the spark that got Cannon Harrison's eye. He's a game warden in McIntosh County for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and was chatting via message with the woman on Bumble.com, a dating site. The McIntosh County woman's name has been withheld by the ODWC.

“It definitely was a shock,” Harrison told the World. “First you think, ‘This isn’t real,’ ” he said. “You think, ‘Maybe she knows who I am and is teasing me,’ but we did some digging on who she was and where she lived and it went from there.”

Harrison and the ODWC checked the woman's background on other social media sites and pursued their investigation. After confronting her with their information, she confessed to killing the buck.

The agency posted it to its Oklahoma Game Wardens Facebook page on Jan. 6. The agency's post said the woman "has already pled guilty and paid multiple fines." She pleaded guilty to improper possession of an illegally taken animal and taking game out of season. Charges for wanton waste of meat and spotlighting were not added.

State wildlife agencies use multiple tools and methods for their investigation. Harrison said he's not heard from any game warden who uncovered a case on a dating site or app.

“I’ve spoken with several wardens across the nation, and this seems to be the first of its kind,” he said. “You can’t just ignore a broken law that falls right in your lap but was kind of a bummer. She said it was her first deer ever, too.”



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