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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

March 30 – April 19, 2022

To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers’ (CPOs, or 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 of the Law Enforcement Division of DWR. 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

Busy Opening Day – District 13 Conservation Police Officers working a saturation patrol in the Suffolk area of Hampton Roads encountered numerous violations on opening day of the spring turkey season.  Besides handling several issues with hunting license violations, officers apprehended four trespassing hunters and located two birds that were illegally killed.  Charges were placed for the illegally killed turkeys, trespassing and hunting license violations. Investigations are still ongoing with additional charges possible.

Turkey Hunting Incident – On April 9, 2022 Conservation Police Officer Zach Howlett responded to a hunting accident in Charles City County, on the Chickahominy WMA. A group of three turkey hunters, after working a pair of birds for several hours, were able to get within sight of the birds. The hunters set up approximately 40 feet from one another as the birds moved back out of sight, but were believed to be working to the left of the groups’ position. The hunter on the far right was not able to see where the hunter on the far left was set up from his position. When the hunter on the far left repositioned himself by moving forward, the hunter on the far right saw movement at 30 yards and mistook the cushion on the victim’s turkey vest for a male turkey. The shooter fired one shot at the victim striking him in the neck and head. The victim was taken to MCV Hospital where he was released the next day. Charges are pending after review by the Commonwealth’ Attorney’s Office.

Region II

CPO’s Locate Trespassers – On April 9, 2022 Master Conservation Police Officer’s Eric Dotterer, and Isaac Boulanger, were patrolling Pittsylvania County on the opening day of the Spring Turkey Season.  During their patrol, they located a parked vehicle at an area where there were multiple posted signs.  The officers were familiar with this property due to previous calls for trespassing, so they decided to investigate.  They soon heard someone calling a hen and shortly thereafter located the hunters.  The hunters were not able to provide permission for the property and license violations were detected.  The violators were issued the appropriate summonses.

CPO Assists with River Rescue – On April 10, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Isaac Boulanger, and Conservation Police Officer Adam Roberts, responded to Henry County to assist Henry County Public Safety with a water rescue on the Smith River.  The victim, a 14-year-old female, had fallen into the water, suffered physical injuries and had started to experience symptoms of hypothermia.  When the officers arrived, they followed rescue personnel to a location along the river where they could launch an inflatable vessel.  The officers joined rescue personnel on their inflatable vessel and were able to paddle to the victim, who was still in the water leaning against a rock and a downed tree.  After a careful and deliberate effort, they loaded the victim onto a basket and paddled her to the bank.  Rescue personnel were able to hoist the victim up the bank to a UTV, which transported her to an ambulance for treatment.

Argument over Hunting Spot Leads to Charges – On April 11, 2022, Conservation Police Officer Bruce Young responded to a Henry County call of a complaint of an argument between two hunters.  Upon arrival, CPO Young spoke with the complainant who explained that the incident originally began as a disagreement on the opening day of the Spring Turkey Season.  The complainant advised that while hunting on April 11, he heard a vehicle lay on the horn for about 30 seconds.  Shortly after, the hunter from the previous day confronted him.  After an exchange of words, the other hunter fired a shot as the complainant walked away from the scene.  CPO Young spoke with the hunter who fired the shot and confirmed the allegation.  He explained that he was frustrated about another hunter being in his spot and lost his temper.  He added that when the complainant walked away, he fired a shot in the other direction.  K9 CPO Richard Howald arrived on the scene and located evidence.  The evidence demonstrated that the shot was not fired in the direction of the complainant.  The hunter’s firearm was seized and the appropriate charges were placed.

Region III

RMEF Elk Site Work Day – On Saturday March 26, 2022 Conservation Police Officers Matthew Arnold, Corey Gardner, and Tyler Sheets attended the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation work day, hosted by the RMEF Southwest Virginia Coalfields Chapter in Buchanan County. The Conservation Officers, along with many other DWR Staff members, met with private landowners and volunteers that spent the morning improving wildlife habitat by removing refuse from several local properties. All participants were treated to lunch at Noah Horn Well Drilling Inc by DWR Board Member Leon Boyd and other RMEF Chapter Members.

Trout Heritage Waters – On April 2, 2022, Conservation Police Officer Matthew Arnold attended the opening day of Trout Heritage Waters on Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area. The weather was excellent for the annual opening day and more than two hundred anglers were in attendance. CPO Arnold conducted fishing license checks, measured trout for constituents, and fielded a multitude of questions. Within 30 minutes of the start time, 0900, one angler caught a 26.5-inch trout. A first-time juvenile angler caught a 23-inch trout; his first trout ever! The event was very successful with multiple people catching their daily limit of trout.

Heritage Trout Waters Special Operations – On April 2, 2022 Virginia Conservation Police Officers from District 32 conducted planned special operations to address violations that normally occur on the opening day of Heritage Trout waters. One such operation involved Sergeant Billings, Master Officer Harris, Senior Officer Rorabaugh and Officer Bobbit working a section where complaints of fishermen exceeding limit of trout has been reported. The officers were able to observe several violations of exceeding the limit of trout along with other violations related to exceeding, and addressed these violations. One of the offenders charged had been charged in the same area less than 60 days before violations related trout fishing.

Region IV

Charges Placed for Keeping Undersized Stripped Bass – On April 12, 2022 Conservation Police Officer Eller was patrolling a popular fishing spot at Lake Anna. While at the location on foot, the officer was advised by a bank fisherman that a boat out in the water at the location was keeping undersized striped bass. Officer Eller watched the group as they continued to fish and noted the description of the boat and occupants. Officer Eller then traveled to a marina and launched a patrol boat. As the officer was enroute back to the location by the water, he observed the same vessel with occupants traveling away from the location. Officer Eller made contact with the occupants at a marina and conducted a compliance inspection and interview of the occupants. It was determined that 3 of the 4 occupants had caught undersized striped bass, which were in their boat’s live well. Appropriate charges and a warning were given for the violations.

Search for Illegal Campers on WMA Leads CPO Right into a Brush Fire – On April 16, 2022 Conservation Police Officer Chris Heberling responded to a call from a concerned hunter on the Hardware River Wildlife Management Area, in Fluvanna County, regarding some campers that he believed were camping illegally on the property. CPO Heberling and the hunter hiked to the camp, which was located in a remote section of the WMA. While in the area, they heard popping sounds and witnessed smoke coming from an area near the camp. CPO Heberling investigated and found a well-established brush fire in the woods. CPO Heberling had the hunter contact Fluvanna County dispatch via 911while the officer ran approximately a mile back to his patrol vehicle through heavy brush to open the access gate for emergency services. Conservation Police Sgt. Ferguson, Fluvanna County Volunteer Fire Department, Scottsville Volunteer Fire Department, and Virginia Department of Forestry responded. As they worked to control the fire, an intoxicated subject, later found to be one of the subjects from the campsite, wandered onto the fire scene. The subject was placed under arrest for public intoxication and later transported to the appropriate detention facility. Another subject that was camping at the site has been identified; neither subject had a valid access permit for VDWR property, and charges are pending for both subjects. The Virginia Department of Forestry is investigating the cause of the fire, which is believed to have been caused by the activities of the campers. Despite high winds, the fire was contained to roughly 1/2 acre. Without the call from the concerned hunter, the damage caused by the fire could have been considerably worse as it most likely would not have been detected for quite some time. DWR dispatchers Frisby, and Wilmoth, provided a level of care and service for the event that went way beyond following SOPs and just checking the boxes. During this incident, dispatcher Frisby, and Wilmoth, were handling a separate EMS-related event on another WMA at the same time. They did an incredible job and never missed a beat. Officers involved are extremely grateful to have these ladies as our backup and to know that they will do everything within their power to take care of our officers.

Special Operations

K9 Baily Makes Fast Work of Accident Scene – On April 9, Officer Patrillo and K9 Bailey responded to the scene of a hunting accident in Charles City County.  Within thirty seconds of being deployed, K9 Bailey located the wad from the shooter’s shotgun. K9 Bailey continued working and quickly located the victim’s location, the shooters spent and unused shells, and other evidence left at the scene.  K9 Bailey’s nose allowed the officers to thoroughly and quickly document the scene and get back to the field patrolling for poachers.

Officers Talked to Inner City Kids About Their Outdoor Careers – Officers Smith, Corley, Braziel and K9 Grace attended the Lakeview Elementary School Career Day, in Portsmouth. Two to three classes of K-5 students were rotated through every 15 minutes for 2 hours where the officers spoke about their career with each class to inner city students. In addition, they displayed a 27′ SAFE Boat, the Department’s new drone, and K9 Grace received lots of petting. The kids loved learning about the CPO career and hearing about wild animals.

  • April 29, 2022