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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

May 2-31, 2018

To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers (CPO’s-previously called game wardens) activities, the “Virginia Conservation Police Notebook” provides an overview of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. These reports are prepared from the officer’s field notes by Kim McCarthy, Executive Assistant to Major Scott Naff [Operations] and Major Bryan Young [Administration] of the Law Enforcement Division of DGIF. These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other outdoor enthusiasts an undeserved bad reputation.

Region I – Tidewater

Plain Clothes Boat and Foot Patrol Leads to Charges – Saturday May 12, CPOs Hart and Hennaman initiated a plain clothes boat patrol on the James River in the city of Richmond.  The annual Shad and Rockfish migration bring numerous anglers to the fall line in the city each spring in their pursuit of the action, that when conditions are right can be outstanding.  Unfortunately, the migration also attracts those who would greedily abuse the resource.  The pair put on the water late afternoon, and worked into the night checking both boaters and bank fisherman.  The presence of two local restaurants on the water, and their adjacent drive up marina has also increased the availability of alcohol to boaters.  Hennaman and Hart were able to address a few violations on the water with various summons and warnings issued for netting and keeping game fish, no license and illegal possession of Herring.  They also performed FST on two boat operators whom had alcohol present on board after making stops for no navigation lights and passing on plane within 50 ft.

At 11pm the duo trailered their Jon boat and transitioned to a foot patrol of the 14th Street Bridge in downtown Richmond.  The District had been getting intelligence that late at night poachers were catching undersize Rockfish and transporting them back to vehicles and continuing to fish.

Officer Hennaman set up surveillance atop the flood wall, while Hart positioned his vehicle out of sight.  Shortly after arriving Hennaman notified Hart that he’d just observed an individual catch what appeared to be an undersized fish and give it to his partner who immediately made a beeline for his van.

Officer Hart waited till the man cleared the bridge and then drove in to stop the man who immediately attempted to hide the fish under the van.  Once confronted, the man gave Officer Hart consent to search his van where Hart located two more undersize Rockfish.  Officer Hennaman then made contact with the man who remained on the bridge to discover that he had in his possession 14 Blueback herring for which there is no season.

While speaking to this individual, Officer Hennaman noticed a separate party a few feet away acting suspicious.  Hennaman inquired as to what the men had caught, only to find that they had three undersize rockfish as well.  All parties were escorted back to the parking lot where interviews were concluded and appropriate charges were placed.

Missing Fisherman – On May 15, 2018 CPOs from District 15 responded to a report of a missing fisherman at the Chickahominy WMA pier in Charles City County.  The report was called in by a turkey hunter who noticed an empty chair, dog and fishing equipment on the pier but no one nearby. CPOs responded to the scene and began searching the area nearby without any results.  An attempt was made using side scan sonar on one of the DGIF patrol boats to locate anything in Morris Creek beside the pier.  The Virginia State Police dive team was called to assist and recovered the victim from the creek.  The investigation found that the fisherman was alone fishing on the pier and fell into the creek.  He was a non-swimmer and did not have a PFD.

Illegal Furs – In March 2018 CPO Amanda Nevel received a call from a trapper in Northumberland County.  He advised her that he had 51 otter pelts that he needed tags for.  On Wednesday March 28, Officer Nevel met with the subject at his residence.  She asked him how he had acquired so many otter pelts and the subject said that he did not trap all of them and that he was getting some of them tagged for other trappers.  Nevel questioned the subject and asked him if he had purchased the pelts.   The subject stated that no money had exchanged hands.  During the discussion, Nevel observed several papers which appeared to be receipts where the subject had paid someone for otter pelts.  At one point the subject pulled out two unsealed otter tags and tagged two otter pelts.  He advised Nevel that she did not have to worry about them because they were already recorded a couple years ago by another CPO.  The subject provided Nevel with the information for all the trappers and where he had acquired the two unsealed tags.

Realizing that she had multiple violations, Nevel left the residence and immediately started to put a plan together. On March 31, CPOs Nevel, Rabago and Senior CPO Dobyns returned to the subjects residence with a search warrant in hand.  Illegal furs and receipts were seized as evidence.  The subject admitted to illegally purchasing 49 otter pelts.  Nevel had also coordinated with multiple CPOs across the state to have all the trappers involved interviewed.  Appropriate charges and warnings have been issued to all parties involved to include fur tagging violations and possession of illegal wildlife.

Region II – Southside

Turkey Poacher Caught with Decoy – On May 2, 2018, District 25 Conservation Police Officers Tyler Blanks and Toby Livermore conducted a turkey decoy operation in Brunswick County.  This was due to landowners complaining of road hunting activities this past deer season and this spring.  After deploying a turkey decoy and to the surprise of the officers, a real turkey hen came into the field.  Adding to the realism of the operation, it was not long that a suspect driving a pickup truck approached and stopped in front of the officer’s location.  The driver reached over to the passenger seat, pulled out a gun and shot the decoy from the driver’s side window.  The 66-year-old resident of Brunswick County is facing multiple game law violations and the confiscation of his Benelli shotgun.

Landowners Assist with Illegal Turkey Hunting – On April 22, 2018, District 25 CPO Tyler Blanks received a trespass complaint in Brunswick County concerning illegal turkey hunting.  Witnesses observed a Chesterfield County man driving away from the area where the shot was heard.  Landowners approached the man and questioned him concerning the shot.  The suspect admitted to shooting onto the property at a coyote but denied anything further.  After the subject left the area, the landowner located a dead gobbler in the tree line where the suspect shot.  Officer Blanks confirmed the turkey was shot with a rifle and later found the suspect and questioned him concerning the incident.  The suspect admitted to shooting at a turkey from the roadway with a 22-250 caliber rifle.  Officer Blanks seized the firearm and multiple charges are pending for killing a turkey illegally.

Veterans Outreach Program – On Saturday, May 19, 2018, CPO Dale Owens and Sergeant Karl Martin participated in the Fourth Annual Veterans Trout Fishing Event in Patrick County.  Trout were stocked earlier and veterans and their families were treated to a picnic lunch and a day of fishing in an area just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Trout Unlimited and the Ferrum College Fishing Club helped Wayne Kirkpatrick, the event organizer, make this event possible.

“Poker Run” Boating Safety Presentation – On Saturday, May 19, 2018, Conservation Police Sergeant Karl Martin delivered a boating safety presentation for the 21st  Annual Poker Run on Smith Mountain Lake.  This event brings boaters to the lake from as far away as California and Texas.  The proceeds from the event are donated to the SML Volunteer Marine Fire/Rescue Department and neighboring volunteer Fire and Rescue Squads in Franklin and Bedford Counties.

Pigg River Ramble – The Annual Pigg River Ramble in Franklin County was cancelled due to heavy rainfall and flooding on the two rivers, in Franklin County, where the three day canoe/kayak event was scheduled.  Although the event was cancelled, some disappointed participants decided to launch kayaks in the Pigg River anyway.  On Saturday, May 19, 2018, a 57 year old man’s kayak capsized and he tumbled for approximately ¼ mile in the high water before reaching the shoreline.  Fortunately, he was wearing a type III lifesaving device (PFD) and an approved helmet.  The swift water rescue team from Franklin County Department of Public Safety (FCPS) transported the hypothermic man to Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital where he was treated and released later that night.   Sergeant Karl Martin and CPO Brett Clawson investigated the boating incident.  The kayak was recovered several miles downstream and later returned to the owner.

Potential Hazardous Issue Resolved Safety – District 21-22 CPOs investigated a potentially hazardous situation on Saturday, May 19, 2018, on Smith Mountain Lake.  A 34 foot cabin cruiser had refueled but gasoline had accidently been pumped into the septic system.  With assistance from DGIF Dispatch, the boat was located at a marina approximately 10 miles from the marina where the vessel had purchased fuel  CPO Eric Dotterer and CPO Matt Meade confirmed that the gasoline had been diluted and properly removed from the “wrong tank”!

Region III – Southwest

4th Offense DUI – On April 29, 2018, Virginia CPO Corey Gardner was leaving Natural Tunnel State Park in Scott County.  As he pulled onto the highway he observed a dark colored SUV that was driving North on 23 towards Duffield, VA nearly hit the guard rail. He followed the vehicle and observed it crossing onto the shoulder of the road and across the centerline several times. Officer Gardner initiated a traffic stop.  The driver was unable to produce any documentation besides a passport. The driver had slurred speech, very glassy eyes, and the odor commonly associated with consuming alcohol about her person. Officer Gardner attempted to have the driver perform FST’s several times. It was determined that due to being unable to stand without assistance or hold her eyes open for more than a few seconds at a time, that it was unsafe for the driver to attempt FST’s. At this point Officer Gardner placed the driver under arrest and due to the level of intoxication, Officer Gardner and a Scott County Deputy had to physically assist her to his patrol vehicle. The driver was taken to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office to give a breath sample to determine her BAC level. (.18 BAC) This was her 4th DUI offense.

CPOs and K9 Josie Demonstrate High Level of Teamwork in Trespassing and Illegal Bird Kill – On April 29, 2018, CPO Jim Anders responded to a trespass call in Bland Co in reference to a subject the district had received complaints about and were attempting to catch. The officer located the individual’s vehicle and evidence of hunting activity. K9 Officer Wes Billings, Sgt. Adam Keene, and Officer Eric Rorabaugh responded to assist. K9 Josie was used to track the subject into the woods and on to property he did not have permission to hunt. The subject eventually exited the woods as K9 Josie was closing in on him. The officer’s interviewed the individual and eventually received a confession to possessing an illegal turkey. Appropriate charges were placed and this activity demonstrates the high level of teamwork occurring in district 32.

No PFD on Watercraft Leads to More – On May 1, 2018, Virginia CPO Derrick Rickels was on patrol on the Holston River on the Scott/Washington County line. Officer Rickels made contact with 2 men kayaking, and both men were unable to present a PFD. Officer Rickels ran both subjects through dispatch and one of the men came back wanted from a neighboring county for a capias for violation of parole. Officer Rickels took him into custody and transported him to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office. Both men were charged for no PFD on a watercraft.

Dickenson County Kid’s Fishing Day – On May 5, 2018, Virginia CPO Sergeant James Hale, along with CPOs Dylan Harding and Derrick Rickels attended the 22nd annual Dickenson County Kid’s Fish Day at Flannagan Lake. This was a joint effort involving the VDGIF, Trout Unlimited, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Approximately 200 kids participated in the event, and all received gifts related to the outdoors. Several fish were caught during the event as the partly cloudy weather and water conditions were perfect for fishing.

CPO Gut Instinct and Investigative Skills Lead to Arrest – On May 5, 2018, Senior CPO Troy Phillips was on patrol at the delayed harvest trout stream portion of Peak Creek in Pulaski County. Officer Phillips observed several men fishing and approached to check for licenses. One of the men seemed very nervous and admitted that he didn’t have a license. Officer Phillips explained that he was going to issue summons for the fishing violations and asked for the man’s information. Once the man reluctantly gave all his information Officer Phillips issued the summons and went to the next two fishermen who were also in violation. Officer Phillips, knowing something wasn’t right about the first fisherman, called dispatch and ran the information that he had been given. Nothing came back correct. Officer Phillips called Pulaski Police Department, CPO’s David Peake and Andy Rutledge who were in the area to assist as DGIF dispatch continued to dig and research to come up with possible information that would lead to finding the suspect. After several interviews with a co-worker, his employer and an intense sweep of the area where the suspect was supposed to live, the suspect was found and arrested. Officer Phillips transported him to the NRV Regional Jail and he was charged with fishing without a license, fishing without a trout license, falsifying a state document, felony forging of a state document, and felony forging and uttering. The suspect had no outstanding warrants.

Tazewell county Kid’s Fishing Day – On Saturday, May 5, 2018, CPO Tyler Sheets attended the Tazewell County Kid’s Fishing Day event held on Lake Whitten. Approximately 200 children and adults enjoyed a sun filled day catching trout and enjoying the outdoors. The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, several Volunteer Fire Departments, Rescue Squads and other volunteers were on hand to assist with the event. Hot dog meals, as well as fishing tackle were provided for each child attending. Due to the Kid’s Fishing Days’ long existence; it is now considered by the community as a traditionally special community event that everyone in the area looks forward to each spring.

Montgomery County Kids Fishing Day – On Saturday May 5, 2018, CPO Lee Wensel, Sgt. John Koloda, U.S. Forest employees, and employees with the Montgomery County Parks and Recreation conducted the Montgomery County Kids Fishing Day held at Pandapas Pond in the Jefferson National Forest.  There were over 225 people in attendance with 120 of those being active fishing participants.  Prizes were awarded for the three biggest fish.   Also ten raffle prizes were awarded. Drinks and hot dogs were provided for the crowd.   The event concluded with many successful fishermen having lots of smiles and memories.

Clinch Mountain WMA Patrol – On Friday, May 11th, 2018, CPOs Nikita Burke and Joel Early were patrolling the Clinch Mountain WMA in Washington County when they observed a pickup truck parked out on one of the Department Boat Ramps on the North Fork of the Holston River. The officers stopped to investigate the motor vehicle’s position on the Boat Ramp and found it to be occupied by a male and a female subject. After observing evidence of alcoholic beverages, and a brief interview with both subjects, the operator of the pickup admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages on the property. The appropriate charges were placed.

“Life is Good” as a CPO – On May 11, 2018 CPO Mark Shaw spoke to approximately 180 Craig County High School students about a career with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries law division. He explained the sports of hunting and fishing are highly regulated; however, they must be to protect our resources so future generation can enjoy the sports like we do today. Officer Shaw used the wild turkey as an example of how it was almost hunted to extinction and now the wild turkey is thriving in Virginia. The reason for the successful comeback of the turkeys was due to hard work from wildlife agencies, sportsmen, and the laws set forth to protect the resource. In addition, Officer Shaw described the hiring process for conservation officers, the training academy, and the field training period. He continued to explain the importance of education and to seek college degrees. Officer Shaw explained a day as a Conservation Officer is very rewarding. Officer Shaw closed his presentation by telling the students that many days he gets to see the sun rise and set, he got to spend the entire day in the outdoors and when he can do that, life is good.

Pulaski County Kid’s Fishing Day Huge Success – On May 12, 2018, the Pulaski County Kid’s Fish Day Committee held the 8th Annual Pulaski County Kid’s Fishing Day at the Boy Scouts of Americas Camp Powhatan.  It is estimated that 1400 people were in attendance for the event setting an all-time record and confirming that it’s the biggest fish day of its kind in the state of Virginia.

A total of 855 prizes were available including 8 lifetime fishing licenses, 15 kayaks and over 200 rod/reel combination fishing poles and many other prizes.  The River of Life Church of Dublin provided the food, Mullins Funeral Home of Radford paid for all the trout that were stocked, Gregory Seeding & Landscaping Inc. of Pulaski paid for billboard advertising, Home Depot of Christiansburg provided over 200 crafts for kids to build, Shelor Motor Mile of Christiansburg provided a large cash donation that helped with the tee shirts for the kids, and Walmart of Dublin provided discounts on prizes, grant money, and volunteers.  The Southern Nights Band provided live music for the event.  The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, Dublin Police Department, Radford Police Department, Virginia State Police, DCR Park Police, DGIF Conservation Police Officers, REMSI, and Pulaski Fire Department were all there to provide support.

16th Annual Special Needs Kids Fishing Olympics – On Saturday May 12, 2018, Virginia CPOs Jason Harris and Ben Boyette participated in the 16th Annual Special Needs Kids Fishing Olympics on the beautiful stocked trout waters of Elk Creek.  This event pairs each special needs fisherman with a fishing buddy for the day with around 150 participants and about 200 volunteers.  Each fisherman receives recognition with trophies or medallions for their participation as well as recognition for largest fish from each group.  This event is a community effort and is supported by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Grants Supermarket, Food City, National Wild Turkey Federation, Subway, Gatorade, Pepsi, Skyline National Bank, Grayson Farm Bureau, Grayson Extension Office, Grayson 4-H, Grayson Sheriff’s Office, Wingate Insurance Agency, Ruth Hall Insurance Agency, Walmart, Dixon Logging, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia Department of Forestry, Elk Creek Rescue Squad, Elk Creek Fire Department, Independence Volunteer Fire Department, 21 Grocery, Richard and Brenda Sutherland and many other volunteers and unnamed sponsors who give time or money for the cause.

Boating Accident Results in BUI Arrest – On May 20, 2018 CPOs Shaw and Peake were on patrol when they received a call from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office reporting a possible boating accident. When the officers arrived, they discovered that the accident was very minor with no damage to either vessel. Officer Peake located eyewitnesses and gathered written statements concerning the incident. Officer Shaw spoke with the operator of the PWC. Officer Shaw noticed that the female operator exhibited signs of being under the influence. Officer Shaw administered a field sobriety performance evaluation. The female performed poorly on the evaluations and was offered a PBT. The operator agreed to the PBT and the result was .257. The operator was taken to the Pulaski County Regional Jail where an evidential breath test was given. The result of the test was .21. She was arrested for operating a vessel under the influence.

First Responder Day – On May 21st, 2018, Senior CPOs Troy Phillips and Wes Billings along with K-9 Josie attended a first responder day at Kipps Elementary School in Montgomery County.  The officers did a program that included a “show and tell” session with over 200 children.  The program highlighted some of the things that a Virginia Conservation Police Officer does, the equipment that we use, and a demonstration with K-9 Josie.

Reckless PWC Operation Leads to BUI Arrest – On Saturday, May 26th; Conservation Police Officers Nikita Burke and Tyler Sheets were patrolling South Holston Lake and about to initiate a scheduled Boat checkpoint, when they observed two PWCs, one of which was operating in a reckless manner. Upon contacting the PWC’s and initiating a field interview with the reckless operator, Officer Sheets noticed a strong odor associated with an alcoholic beverage about his person. The operator of the PWC consented to performing a series of Field Sobriety Tests, which he performed poorly. At this time, Officer Sheets placed the individual under arrest for operating under the influence of alcohol and transported the subject to the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail. Officer Sheets administered the Breathalyzer test on the subject, which produced a sample result of 0.18 grams of alcohol per 210L of breath. As part of the incident, both Officers detected violations for safety equipment and Boater Education Certification requirements pertaining to the PWCs. Appropriate charges were placed on both Operators.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

Kids Fishing Day at Cave Mountain Lake – On Saturday May 5th, CPOs C. Manspile and L. Fisher, along with Complimentary Work Force volunteer Jimmy Poole, partnered with the U.S Forest Service to host a kids fishing day at Cave Mountain Lake in Rockbridge County.  Despite a less than ideal weather forecast, 63 kids and 45 adults attended the event. Lunch was provided for all participants, and many of the kids were able to catch their limit. Awards sponsored by CWF volunteer Poole were presented for the largest fish by weight and length.

Augusta County Kids Matter Public Safety Day – On May 12th, CPO Ostlund participated in the Augusta County Kids Matter public safety day, held at Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton. CPO Ostlund was assisted by his wife and 3 children. As a family they showcased indigenous animal pelts and skulls, Conservation Police equipment and VDGIF literature. While packing up at the conclusion of the event, CPO Ostlund was approached by two mothers and their children. Two of the children were visibly upset that they had missed the event. CPO Ostlund unpacked the animal furs once more, and provided the children with a private animal identification lesson. He also allowed the older children to each take a turn activating the blue lights on his Police Tahoe. All children left with smiles and their faces and goodie bags full of mementos. Both mothers thanked CPO Ostlund for taking the extra time to interact with their children.

Hunting During Closed Season – On May 12th 2018, Sgt. Ham received information of several trucks loaded with hunting dogs entering the National Forest in the Long Run Road of Rockingham County.  Sgt. Ham on arrival to the area observed two pickup trucks with dogs rigged up with tracking collars.  As Sgt. Ham approached, one vehicle drove off.  The occupants advised they were collecting dogs they had released on private land.  Sgt. Ham had previously worked with the landowners and was aware they did not allow hunting on the private property with the exception of family members.  After interviewing the suspects Sgt. Ham was given a confession for releasing dogs to hunt raccoon in National Forest lands closed season.  Summonses were issued to the suspects for hunting closed season.  On May 13th 2018, Senior Officer Herndon was able to locate the suspect that drove off as Sgt. Ham approached the night before.  Warrants will be obtained for hunting closed season.

Agencies Team Up for Special Operation on Potomac River – On April 25, CPOs Eric Plaster and Rich Landers participated in an after-hours special operation along the Potomac River near Washington DC with the U. S. Park Police and USFWS.  Uniformed and undercover vice officers coordinated to apprehend 15 subjects for illegal possession of herring and other fishing violations.  Plaster and Landers provided advisory assistance and utilized an unmarked vehicle, which greatly enhanced the success of the operation.  The U. S. Park Police has continued to work alongside DGIF CPOs for the past three years, in an effort to learn more about natural resources enforcement and increase pressure on illegal fishing during the herring and striped bass spawning season.

17th Annual Kid’s Fishing Day – On Saturday, April 28, 2018, CPOs Jacob Chaffin and Paul Inge conducted the 17th Annual Kid’s Fishing Day at Mint Springs Park in Albemarle County. The CPO’s where assisted by the Kingfishers of Charlottesville, the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, and several other volunteers. The event was a huge success with over one hundred kids and adults participating. Multiple kids caught their limits of trout, while several others were fortunate enough to catch trophy sized fish. The parents of these kids were told how to submit an application for a Trophy Fish Award through the Virginia Angler Recognition Program.

Seas The Day Event – CPO Chance Dobbs and Sgt. Steve Ferguson represented the VA Department of Game & Inland Fisheries at the third annual Seas the Day event held on May 12, 2018 on the Rivanna Reservoir in Albemarle County. The event is held each year to honor and serve military veterans and their families with a variety of outdoor activities including learn-to-row with UVA’s rowing teams, kayak paddling instruction, professional fly and spin fishing instruction, corn hole, and kids activities.

Kid’s Fishing Day on Bullpasture River – On Saturday, May 12, 2018, Senior CPO Beth McGuire conducted her 9th Annual Kid’s Fishing Day on the Bullpasture River in Highland County. She was assisted by Senior Officer Neil Kester, Coursey Springs Fish Cultural Station Manager Eric Wooding, CWF Volunteers Bob Stover and Jimmie Poole, the Mustoe Yacht Club, Gardner Enterprises, and the Highland County Sheriff’s Office. The Highland County Recreation Commission provided lunch for all of the attendees and workers. A total of 98 kids participated in the event with most catching trout.  All of the youth received a door prize which included 7 bicycles that were won.  Trophies were awarded to 5 young anglers for the biggest fish in their age group.  A trophy was also awarded for the first young angler to catch their first limit of trout.  The annual event is a great opportunity for kids to take part in the trout fishing program.

  • May 31, 2018