An organization dedicated to curbing the illegal taking of Minnesota fish and wildlife is making a move to the Brainerd lakes area.
Turn in Poachers (TIP), a private nonprofit organization with its famous Wall of Shame, is relocating from Grand Rapids to the Paul Bunyan Nature Learning Center on Wise Road.
Recently TIP members were cleaning up the building, which has been closed for several years. The former Paul Bunyan Nature Learning Center had trails, an interpretive center with numerous displays and space for meetings.
Now vegetation has overtaken the grounds outside the building, trails are overgrown and the building musty from its dormancy. The office looked as though staff members left at the end of a shift one day and never returned. This week, TIP members were folding Paul Bunyan Nature Learning Center sweatshirts and cleaning out office spaces as they checked out their new home. Snowshoes, that looked brand new, hung on racks waiting for rentals.
“It’s impressive,” said TIP President Doug Bermel of the building. Displays and wildlife mounts are still up along the walls. TIP members were given a tour of the facility and given the option to move in and take over the building. They decided to do just that. Most recently, the organization has been sharing space with the Minnesota Deerhunters Association in Grand Rapids. Bermel said they are now in the process of signing the papers for the building.
They expect to have the office open three days a week.
Bermel said the plan is to have the trails back in shape and usable later this year. On Aug. 4, a major cleanup is planned at the facility. Bermel hopes volunteers will come out to help with the effort.
And Bermel said they are open to have people stop in to see the displays in the building or learn more about TIP. It may be some time before they think of anything like renting snowshoes, but Bermel said they are open to groups that want to rent the meeting space or students and adults who just want to come in to see the wildlife displays and the incoming Wall of Shame, depicting confiscated items from poachers.
Bermel has been part of the organization for more than 10 years. This is his second year as president.
TIP offers rewards for anyone who turns in a wildlife violation that leads to an arrest. Rewards range from $100 for fish and small game and non-game to $250 for big game or endangered species violations. Violations that are commercial or flagrant may come with a $1,000 reward. TIP will have a booth at the Crow Wing County Fair.
The group offers speakers, information and educational activity books for youngsters and provides the TIP hotline. They are not part of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources but work with the DNR in an effort to educate the public about the effects of poaching on Minnesota game and fish. TIP gets its funding from donations, fundraisers, charitable gambling through pull tabs and membership dues.
The TIP line — (800) 652-9093 — is available 24 hours a day, or may be reached by dialing #TIP from a cell phone.