Outdoor enthusiasts are reminded to be cautious if they come across illegal drug-growing operations in remote areas.
While several large grows have been found and removed recently in northern Wisconsin, including one in late August in Oconto County, there still may be more marijuana-growing operations on remote public and private lands.
Some growers may be armed and ready to protect their product.
"Even though local, state and federal law enforcement authorities have successfully teamed up and addressed several large grows on public and private lands, it's important people continue to be vigilant," said Wisconsin Chief Conservation Warden Randy Stark.
"There still could be illegal drug operations on the landscape that may pose a threat to safety," Stark continued. "These grows leave a costly mess to clean up, deprive the public of the intended use of their lands, and potentially put the public in physical danger. With the large number of outdoor enthusiasts in the woods this time of year, the public needs to exercise some caution."
Illegal drug operations, such as marijuana gardens and methamphetamine production sites, threaten public safety and also damage the environment.
"Ultimately, we want to prevent these operations from ever taking hold and the drugs from winding up on the street, but we need the public's help in reporting what they see if something that strikes them as suspicious," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
People should be aware of the following:
- Signs of activity or items that suggest someone is living in an area. This includes huts, tents, irrigation hoses, watering jugs and chemical containers
- Signs of disturbed vegetation, such as abnormal cuttings or the clearing of small areas.
Signs of a methamphetamine production lab include the presence of:
- Household chemicals.
-Glassware and tubing.
-Cookstoves or bunson burners.
If suspicious activity is found, notify local law enforcement.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also operates a confidential tip line staffed round-the-clock for reporting suspected or observed illegal activity. The number is 1-800-TIP-WDNR(1-800-847-9367 or cell #367). You also can call toll-free at 1-800-NAB-DRUG (1-800-622-3784).
In Michigan, call the Help Eliminate Marijuana Planting Unit (HEMP) at 1-800-235-HEMP or the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET) at 1-800-882-8202.
"Don't put yourself in danger or try to investigate the site yourself," said Stark.
If you come across signs of illegal activity:
- Do not approach or confront the individuals present at the site; do not in any way indicate that you are suspicious of their activities.
- Immediately leave the area along the same route you entered.
- Watch for other people in the area.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. In some instances, potentially dangerous devices or harmful materials might be nearby.
- Make every effort to avoid contact with suspicious packages and/or equipment; they might be highly volatile.
- When you are safely away, write down a detailed description of the activities taking place, the area, the people, and any vehicles. If possible, record anything you observe such as vehicle license numbers and GPS coordinates.
- Immediately report the activity to law enforcement.
Most illegal drug production activity is during the spring and summer months, but the sites can remain dangerous year-round due to chemicals, explosives and other materials sometimes found on the premises.