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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

September 5 – 25, 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

Pending Charges on Hunters and Property Owner – On September 1, opening day of dove season, Senior CPO Cameron Dobyns was patrolling an area where he had located a field planted with sunflowers earlier in the summer.  Upon entering the property, Dobyns immediately started hearing multiple gun shots coming from the area of the field.  He exited his patrol vehicle, entered the field and started to conduct compliance checks on the hunters.  When conducting his checks, Dobyns observed what appeared to be wheat spread out on the ground in the area where several of the hunters were hunting.  Dobyns questioned the owner of the property about the wheat.  The owner stated that he had planted a cover crop of wheat in the sunflower field.  He said that he had just broadcasted it and did not cover it up.  Dobyns then shut down the hunt and conducted interviews with the other hunters.  USFW agents have been consulted and charges are pending at this time.

OUI Issued Near DGIF Boat Ramp on Lake Chesdin – On September 2, 2018 Virginia CPO Brandon Chester was conducting a patrol of the DGIF boat ramp on Lake Chesdin.  Officer Chester spoke with Aquatic Biologist Scott Herrmann, who was on the lake conducting creel surveys.  Herrmann made Officer Chester aware of several subjects operating in a reckless manner.  Officer Chester made contact with Officer Brandon Robinson to initiate a boat patrol to address the concerns.  Officers Chester and Robinson encountered heavy traffic on the lake during the beginning of the boat patrol, however; no violations were observed.  Officer Chester made the decision to remain on the lake after dark to address additional complaints of boaters towing tubes and skiers after dark as well as PWC’s remaining out after dark.

With sunset being at 1937 hours that day Officers Chester and Robinson took up a position in a cove where they could observe both Seven Springs Marina and the DGIF boat ramp.  At 1937 hours Officer Chester observed a male on a PWC.  The operator continued to ride in the area until 1952 hours when it was clear that he had no intention of coming off the water.  Officers Chester and Robinson approached the subject who immediately turned for the shore.  The subject beached the PWC on the shore and began to walk up the hill.  Officer Chester was able to get the subject to come back to the shoreline.

While speaking with the subject, it became apparent that the subject had been drinking.  Officer Chester conducted field sobriety tests, which confirmed that the subject was intoxicated.  The subject agreed to provide a breath sample for the PBT which resulted in a reading of .212 BAC.  The evidential breath test was administered by the Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office with a result of .19 BAC.  Charges were secured for OUI, operating a PWC after sunset, and operating without boater safety.

Federal Charges for Gross “Over Daily Limit” – September 10, 2018, Federal Wildlife Officer Darrin Dick received information related to people shooting Clapper rail birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, namely shooting the birds while running the outboard motor and taking over limits.  He contacted Eastern Shore CPO Tony Pennino and set up a joint patrol of the coastal marshes of Northern Accomack. These marshes were experiencing extreme high tides due to the pending hurricane, making conditions ideal to hunt these migratory game birds. Shortly after launching the patrol boat, Pennino and Dick observed a boat with two hunters that appeared to be shooting birds while running the motor.  After a short period of observation the officers made contact with the vessel in question when the operators stopped in the marsh. During the stop, one of the boat occupants denied hunting, because he had no license, the other admitted to shooting a few birds.  Officer Dick quickly discovered an orange plastic bushel basket hidden in the marsh next to the boat in question. The basket contained 74 clapper rails, or 49 birds over the daily limit of 15 per hunter. Both individuals were charged with the federal violations, and will appear in federal court to answer for their actions.

Region II – Southside

Complainant Turns Out to be the Suspect! – On August 26, 2018, Sergeant Slaughter and CPO Matt Thomas were conducting a boat patrol on Smith Mountain Lake when they received a call in reference to a deer carcass that had been discovered with what appeared to be a small caliber gunshot wound to the left rear hind quarter.  When they arrived on location, two Bedford County Sheriff Deputies were present.  One of deputies who grew up in the area advised that he had received a call a couple days earlier from a gentleman nearby that he had a gunshot hole through his shed. Officer Thomas attempted to contact the landowner to follow-up on the shed complaint but only got a voicemail.  Taking the name from the voicemail, Officer Thomas then checked GIS and located the residence. Sergeant Slaughter and Officer Thomas proceeded to the complainant’s residence and talked with him about the reported property damage.  He stated that he believed that the shed was shot from the road.  The bullet had passed through the window facing the road, as well as the rear (house-facing) wall of the shed and additionally penetrated a half-sheet of drywall stored inside the shed against the rear wall.  Upon close examination of the shed, it became apparent that the bullet had been a small caliber, possibly a .22. A close examination of the sheet of drywall inside revealed that it had been moved and reoriented.  Upon repositioning the drywall, the officers were able to match up the trajectory of the bullet from the wall through the sheet.  Sergeant Slaughter questioned the complainant about several inconsistencies discovered in his story compared to the visible evidence.  Eventually the complainant confessed to firing a .22 rifle at a deer in his front yard, subsequently striking his shed.  He claimed to have aimed at the deer’s left rear hindquarter and was attempting to scare the deer away due to damage of his landscape.  He later told Sergeant Slaughter that he was impressed with our investigative skills and apologized for his actions.  The appropriate charges have been placed.

No Licenses While Chasing Bear – CPO Michael Morris received several reports of large groups chasing bear in Bedford County so he decided to plan ahead and look for them on Saturday, September 1st. CPO Leslie Wright realized this would be a great learning opportunity and decided to join in after working her scheduled boat patrol on SML.  They both worked multiple areas that Saturday and ran across several bear hunters who in fact did not have a bear license.  Officer Morris and Officer Wright addressed several violations and plan to continue monitoring these areas.

DUI Arrest After Boat Shift on SML – On September 1, 2018, CPO Morris was driving on Diamond Hill Road, in Bedford County, when a dark colored Honda CRV crossed the center line and stopped in his lane.  The driver motioned for Officer Morris to pass, which was not possible due to how the vehicle was positioned in the road.  Officer Morris activated his emergency lights and conducted a vehicle stop.  The driver was unsteady on her feet and slurring speech.  After performing poorly on the Standard Field Sobriety Tests, the driver was placed under arrest and transported to the Bedford County Jail.  The final BAC result was .17, over twice the legal limit.

Recipient of the #5 O.P.S. Protector Challenge Coin – Sergeant James Slaughter along with CPO’s Dallas Neel, Leslie Wright and Michael Morris presented the Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief, John Honaker, with the Protector Challenge Coin (#5), from the Office of Professional Standards (O.P.S).  Chief Honaker retired from the Mast Climber industry after 20+ years and has 45+ years of volunteer fire and rescue service.  His noble commitment to volunteering his spare time to serve the needs of the public, on one of the largest territories in the region, a 20,000 acre lake with 540 miles of shoreline, has been essential to providing significant services to the counties of Bedford, Franklin and Pittsylvania.  The Smith Mountain Lake Marine Unit (Company 11) is an all volunteer organization that has been serving the lake community since 1975.  Chief Honaker and his team of dedicated volunteers answer hundreds of calls annually and are a critical part of promoting public safety so that all people enjoying Virginia’s waterways can have a safer place to enjoy abundant outdoor recreation.  His interactions with the media, charities, youth groups and the general public have heightened awareness to many local issues.  Over the years, Chief Honaker and his team have accommodated numerous requests made by Conservation Police Officers at all hours of the day and night. This partnership has made a significant impact on how DGIF provides services and we could not do it without them!

River Rescue on the Staunton River, Campbell County – On Sunday, September 23, 2018, Conservation Police Officers Cory Harbour, K9 Officer Richard Howald, Matt Thomas, Michael Morris and Dallas Neel, responded to a call regarding stranded kayakers on the Staunton River, in the area of the Long Island Boat Ramp, in Campbell County.  Officer Harbour received the initial call, at approximately 1300 hours and he immediately procured one of the district river patrol boats and head toward the closest boat ramp.  Local county fire and rescue swift water teams had already been dispatched to the call and they were also enroute to the ramp.  When Officer Harbour arrived, he linked up with the local swift water rescue teams, who had already formed a plan to get on the water and attempt to locate the stranded boaters.  The stranded boaters were currently not in distress since they were lucky enough to get to one of the few areas that was still above water.  The river conditions for the rescue were going to be anything but routine.  The current gage height of the river was peaking at 20 feet in an area where the average gage height is approximately 2.5 – 3 feet.  Officer Harbour launched the District 23 river boat with two rescue boats following his lead.  He was able to navigate down river to the area where one of the boater’s cell phones had pinged when he quickly realized that the river conditions were much more severe than in the area where they had launched.  Without delay, he maneuvered his boat to the side of the river, tied off to a tree, and began directing the rescue boats to follow suit. Realizing that the equipment currently on scene was insufficient for these extreme conditions, Officer Harbour requested dispatch to call for assistance from other officers.  Officers Morris, Neel, Howald and Thomas responded.  Officer Thomas was enroute to get the larger District 23 river boat while Morris, Neel and Howald continued to the scene.  Meanwhile, Officer Harbour was able to get back to his patrol truck.  Immediately, he left to go retrieve an even larger 22’ 200HP inboard jet boat, from the Vic Thomas Hatchery, that is used as a work boat by the hatchery team.  At approximately 1530 hours, with all officers on scene, the decision was made to use the largest asset available, which was the 22’ inboard jet boat.  Officers Howald, Harbour, Thomas and two swift water rescue units then launched on the river in an attempt to locate and retrieve the stranded boaters.  The larger, heavier and much more powerful hatchery work boat paid off for the rough/swift conditions.  Very shortly thereafter, the officers were able to locate the stranded boaters, transport both of them, and one of their kayaks, safely back to the ramp.  The two stranded boaters, all fire and rescue personnel and all officers were able to get off the water safely.

Region III – Southwest

Bait Site Patrol Leads to Serious Charges – On September 2, 2018 Virginia CPO Mark Vandyke was patrolling near known bait sites when he encountered a van with three individuals who were near one of the bait areas. Upon further investigation, Officer Vandyke discovered that the driver was a revoked, habitual offender in Virginia and noticed paraphernalia consistent with using methamphetamine. Sgt. James Hale and a St. Paul K-9 unit went to assist him on scene. During a search of the vehicle, multiple items of paraphernalia were found along with what was believed to be methamphetamine that belonged to the driver. While awaiting a transport vehicle for the detainees and tow truck, a pickup truck drove by the baited location. As it passed, Officers noticed the tailgate was down and saw two large bags of apples in the back of it. Officer Vandyke recognized the truck and driver as the suspect in the baiting case.  Sgt. Hale followed the vehicle, and it led him to another bait site. Sgt. Hale interviewed the suspect and obtained a confession for feeding/baiting of deer and bear. Charges placed during this event were: felony possession of methamphetamine, felony driving revoked and unlawful feeding of wildlife.

South Holston Lake OUI – September 3, 2018 CPOs Matthew Arnold and Cody Hash were patrolling South Holston Lake in Washington County. The officers observed a pontoon boat with occupants that were stern riding. Upon stopping the vessel and during the safety equipment inspection, Officer Hash detected the odor associated with the consumption of an alcoholic beverage about the operator’s person. Officer Hash conducted standardized field sobriety tests, in which the operator performed poorly. The subject was placed under arrest for operating under the influence and transported to the Southwest Regional Jail where the final BAC was determined to be .09g/210L. Appropriate charges have been placed.

Trespasser Charged with Ginseng Roots – September 3, 2018 Senior CPO George Shupe was contacted by the Tazewell County Spearhead ATV Trail Ranger in reference to a suspected trespasser digging Ginseng.  Officer Shupe arrived on scene and located 2 fresh tracks leading into the woods onto posted property that ran adjacent to the ATV Trail. Senior Officer Shupe set up surveillance on the vehicle and after a short wait, observed two men exit the posted property.  The subjects were found in possession of 15 ginseng roots.  It was determined that the subjects did not have permission to be on the property.  The appropriate charges were placed.

Kid’s Fishing Day – September 8th, 2018, CPO Matthew Arnold attended the town of Tazewell’s kids fishing day in Tazewell County. More than 30 children attended the event where they caught a many of Rainbow trout. Multiple prizes were awarded to the Kids, which were donated by Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop. CPO Arnold provided hunting and fishing information and assisted the young anglers during the event.

National Beagle Club Virginia State Hunt – On September 8th, 2018, CPO Matthew Arnold attended the National Beagle Club Virginia State Hunt in Buchanan County. Over 150 dogs participated in various hunts throughout two days of competition. This was the first time an event like this had been hosted in Buchanan County and it was a great success. Officer Arnold spoke with many of the enthusiastic hunters and answered the many questions they had. Officer Arnold provided a large amount of information regarding the Elk that DGIF had recently brought back to Virginia and many of the visiting competitors were able to see and hear them. Overall, many of the sportsman not only had an amazing time, but they were able to experience beautiful Buchanan County; the “Elk Capitol” of Virginia.

K9 Josey Assists CPOs in Arrest of Trespassing and Unlawful Ginseng – September 4th, 2018, Senior K9 Conservation Police Officer Wes Billings and “Josey” assisted Conservation Police Officer Matthew Arnold with a response to a complaint of a trespasser that was potentially digging Ginseng in Tazewell County. Upon arrival, Senior Officer Billings and K9 Josey immediately began to track the subject. During this time, CPO Arnold was able to make contact with the subject by phone and convinced him to return to his vehicle. At first, the subject denied digging ginseng, but after a brief interview, CPO Arnold learned he had hidden approximately (25) Ginseng roots before returning. K9 Josie and Senior Officer Billings were able to locate the unlawful ginseng. Appropriate Charges in the incident were placed.

Floyd Livestock and County Fair – On Saturday, September 8, 2018, Conservation Police Sergeant John Koloda, Sr. CPO Wes Billings, CPO Mark Brewer, and K-9 Josie represented DGIF with an exhibit at the Floyd Livestock and County Fair.  Josie was a key part of the exhibit, with many fairgoers saying they were unware of our K-9 program before meeting her.  Citizens discussed many topics including potential CPO career possibilities, laws/regulations, the kill permit process, and illegal hunting information.

Illegal Spotlighting of Elk – On Thursday, September 13th; 2018, CPO Matthew Arnold was patrolling Poplar Gap in Buchanan County. During his patrol, CPO Arnold directed multiple families to a nearby herd of approximately 45 elk. CPO Arnold was able to educate the people on the background of elk in Virginia and he spoke about the laws pertaining to them. For many of the individuals, this was the first time they had seen elk in person. As night fell, CPO Arnold resumed his patrol of the area. At approximately 8:30 pm, the officer noticed a vehicle stopped in the road. The vehicle turned, illuminating a nearby field full of elk with its headlights. CPO Arnold observed this vehicle continue to shine its lights into the field for about five minutes before he initiated a traffic stop. The driver admitted he knew he should not have been shinning his headlights into the field, as it was illegal. After a brief interview with all persons inside the vehicle and determining no weapons were present, Officer Arnold explained Virginia’s Laws pertaining to shining lights on places used by Deer and Elk. The operator of the vehicle was charged appropriately in the incident.

CPOs Participate in Washington County Fair – On Friday, September 14th, CPOs Joel Early and Tyler Sheets, along with Region Wildlife Manager Shannon Bowling, set up a wildlife display at the Washington County Fair in conjunction with their participation in “School Days at the Fair” for students from all Washington County schools. All students were dismissed early from class so that they could attend the Washington County Fair and visit the various educational displays. The theme for this year was “Americana and Patriotism”. Individuals stopping by the DGIF display were able learn about and discuss both national and state wildlife symbols; such as the Bald Eagle, Brook Trout, and Garter Snake. The Officers and Biologist answered many hunting, fishing, and boating related questions and provided information throughout the event.

2nd Annual Outdoor Expedition – On Saturday, September 15th, 2018, CPOs Nikita Burke and Joel Early participated in the 2nd Annual Outdoor Exposition at Covenant Fellowship Church in Bristol, Virginia.  The Officers made contact with approximately (200) constituents throughout the day. Many young children were in attendance and won door prizes consisting of outdoor equipment, hunting and fishing supplies. The DGIF booth was a popular stop and the officers provided information concerning the upcoming deer season, as well as Elk and the Department’s Wildlife Management areas.

Cedar Bluff Heritage Festival – On Saturday, September 15, 2018 Senior CPO James Brooks and Probationary CPO Craig Chilcott conducted a meet and greet program at the Cedar Bluff Heritage Festival in Tazewell County. The Officers provided information and responded to many questions regarding hunting, fishing and boating related activities. Many contacts were made during the event, which had over one-thousand people in attendance. Region III Biologist(s) were also on site with both mussel and fishery exhibits, to which the large crowd was found to have quite an interest in.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

Collector Coin Presented – On August 30, 2018 CPOs from district 42 presented Charlie Martin of Rockingham County with an Office of Professional Standards Protector Coin.   Mr. Martin is a local farmer who, during the fall, operates a game processing business.  He is always working hand in hand with law enforcement to ensure that laws are being followed.  Mr. Martin always strives to make sure those in the community are properly educated on game laws and safe hunting practices.  Mr. Martin is a protector of wildlife in district 42. He is always promoting safety, and the safe enjoyment of the outdoors whether it be hunting, fishing or boating.  Mr. Martin is most deserving of being recognized for his efforts.

Special Operations

CPO Saves People and Pets During Flash Flood – On Monday, September 17th, 2018 K9 CPO Richard Howald was on patrol in Montebello in Nelson County where it had been raining heavy all day.  He observed that Hatchery Road at the Montebello Fish Hatchery was completely submerged in water from the flooded creek.  He traveled down the mountain on route 56 into the Tyro/Massie Mill area and felt the road giving way under his vehicle as the Tye River along Route 56 was flooding badly.  At the bottom of the mountain he found the fields along the river, sections of the road, and the bridges were flooded and submerged and some houses and businesses were being flooded.  Water was halfway up the door of his Tahoe as he made it to some people along the road, one of which was with the rescue squad but was in his personal vehicle waiting on a crew because there was a family in a house that was already surrounded by the quickly rising water.  Richard realized there was no time to wait for a swift water team and he, along with a Nelson County Animal Control Officer, borrowed a canoe from a neighbor nearby the home.  They then waded with the canoe in the near chest deep water and rescued two dogs that had climbed onto things to keep their heads above water as they were chained up. They then made two more trips to the home to transport two young children approximately 3 and 7, their grandfather, and several cats to safety.  Richard instructed the VDOT personnel that were on scene to close the road and advise VSP of his instructions and of the conditions as all of the bridges, roads, and residences along that stretch of Route 56 were flooded and submerged.  The family and animals were all uninjured and very thankful.  The power had been out in that area most of the day and there is no cell service which likely prevented people from even being able to call for help when the river began to flood.

Bon Secours Public Safety Day – CPO Patrillo and K9 Bailey were invited and attended the September 22nd 6th annual Bon Secours Public Safety Day in Chesterfield County. This event allows the public to meet and interact with members of the Chesterfield County Public Safety Service. The event was attended by the Chesterfield County Police Department, Sherriff’s Office, Fire and Rescue, Virginia State Police, and many other public safety oriented organizations.  As always, Bailey was a huge hit with the children and adults alike, and Officer Patrillo was able to answer many wildlife and boating related questions.  They greeted over 1,000 children and their parents.

  • September 27, 2018