DNR Violation Hotline Is There for You and for Our Resources

An article from WWA’s Words From The Wardens.

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s October, 2020 eNewsletter

By DNR Conservation Warden Tim Otto – timothy.otto@wisconsin.gov

Waterfowl season is upon us throughout Wisconsin, and I hope you are finding time to hunt during the early fall days.

Most hunters enjoying the waterfowl season do so by following the laws. This ready and voluntary compliance is based upon a shared respect and an appreciation of the natural resources that makes Wisconsin a national standout — along with our great people, of course!

Like any big group of folks, there are a few — very few — bad apples in the duck marsh. Sure, there are instances of a person unintentionally violating a hunting law. Mistakes can happen.

However, I am referring to the intentional violator who seeks to take advantage of the resource and maybe a situation. Not only is the act detrimental to the resource, but it also is a violation against the ethical and legal hunter doing their outdoor excursion the right way.

Since wardens cannot be everywhere, we depend upon and greatly appreciate the partnerships we have with citizens and groups like the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association to keep our resources protected and the people who enjoy them safe. This is where our toll-free DNR Violation Hotline comes in. This column is made to explain the hotline’s purpose and how you can effectively and efficiently use it when you want.


The DNR Violation Hotline gives you a way to confidentially pass on information about a possible violation you have observed in person or read about on social media. The violations reported involve wildlife, the environment or outdoor recreational activities. The hotline features a toll-free number to call or text. You also can use an online form to provide the information. The hotline is staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week. The information you provide to our dispatchers is then provided to the appropriate DNR staffer — or, in the case of a possible waterfowl hunting violation, it would go to the closest conservation warden.


Consider sharing your observations with our hotline staff. Please remember: In no way should you confront the person you believe may have violated a law or put yourself in harm’s way to get more information. Your safety is priority No. 1.

Violations can be reported by:

  • Calling or texting this number: 1-800-TIP-WDNR (1-800-847-9367).
  • Or, completing an online form on this secure website link: https://dnrx.wisconsin.gov/rav/ .

Store these contacts on your phone and with your hunting gear.


When contacting our hotline dispatchers, such as the one in this photo, they’ll ask questions to get an accurate picture of what you saw. Questions such as:

  • Do you want to give your name and hold your identity confidential? Callers also may choose to remain anonymous. However, I must say most of us conservation wardens do prefer if the caller identifies who they are and chooses to keep their identity confidential. Why? If we wardens know who called, we can contact the caller to clarify any information and add your information pieces to a case puzzle that we may already be working. Also, if we know who called, we can follow-up with that person to let them know the result of the investigation.

The next several dispatcher questions are going to center around the caller telling the story of the incident they’re reporting.  The dispatchers are going to ask:

  • Who, what, when, and where you saw the possible violation? If you personally know who committed a violation, that’s ideal but not common. However, if you don’t know the person, information such as license plates, boat registration numbers or specific physical characteristics can allow us to locate a suspect or suspects.  For example, calling the DNR Violation Hotline on the opening day of duck season describing a guy in a camouflage jacket and a scrubby beard won’t help us a whole lot.  Describing someone in their 30’s, wearing a jacket with a specific logo or feature or color, with blonde hair and blue eyes and weighs 220-pounds paints a picture of a suspect.


The more specific the descriptions you provide to the hotline dispatcher, the easier it is for us to investigate the incident. For example, a report of shooting before hunting hours is a vague description of a violation. However, if a person can describe two hunters in a boat, with each shooting three times at passing wood ducks twenty minutes before the start of shooting hours gives us more to work with. Also, if the caller can identify whether the ducks were shot would be an added detail for our investigation.


The time in which a violation occurred can affect our response. Please report the violation as close in time to the incident as possible. The longer the delay between the incident and the reporting of the violation, the greater the likelihood that evidence will dissipate. If a violation occurred at 6 a.m., but is being reported at 3 p.m., our response will likely be altered. Violators generally are not in the same place at 6 a.m. as they are at 3 p.m.


There are a lot of ways to report locations. Property owners, road intersections, addresses and GPS coordinates are commonly used to get us to the right spot. When describing directions of travel, please provide cardinal directions. Please avoid describing locations by local names and landmarks that no longer exist. I once received a location description that involved “the big white pine” that I couldn’t miss. After an extended search for this tree, I contacted the complainant and was informed that the tree had blown over years ago. I never did find the illegal bait.

A great tool that can capture a lot of location information is the smartphone that many of us carry. Cellphones can capture all the above described information in detail with a simple picture. If location sharing is enabled, it can even provide an accurate location.


As I said earlier, most hunters enjoy their outings by doing their best to stay safe and follow the laws. Every so often, we run into someone who is behaving otherwise. I don’t expect hunters to report every violation they encounter. However, if you encounter a violation that affects the health of our resources, safety of the public, and threatens our sport, please consider reporting the violation.

Stay safe out there and celebrate the season with fun outdoors!