RIPLEY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Poaching is as old as deer hunting in Maine. This year the activity may be aa record levels. Poaching creates a danger to the public and puts increasing pressure on game wardens.

"It's been unbelievable this year," said Warden Sergeant Chris Simmons who works mostly in central Maine. "Thew five guys I supervise aren't sleeping much. They're not see their families at all."

A private organization called Operation Game Thief works closely with the Warden Service on poaching. It offers a toll-free number that people can call to anonymously report game violations.

"A lot of people do not want to deal with a law enforcement officer," said Tim Peabody. Peabody is the former leader of the Maine Warden Service who now works as a professor at Unity College where he oversees the program. "There is still a lot of interest in deer hunting in Maine and people want personal success taking game so they bend the law."

Peabody said that Operation Game Thief overages 350 calls a year. This year there have been more than 320 calls including more than 100 last week.

Simmons says it wouldn't be so bad if people were poaching for economic reasons. "I haven't met anyone yet who is starving for deer meet. I think they're thrill killers. That's been the reason for years and years."

The toll free number for Operation Game Thief is 1-800-ALERT-US.

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