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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

August 24 – September 21, 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

Boating Incident Call Leads to Intensive Search – On September 2, 2022, Conservation Police Officers from District 11 responded to a call for service for a possible serious boating incident in Essex County involving a PWC.  A caller stated that a PWC had been involved in a collision and a person was in the water needing assistance.  The CPOs, along with other state/local law enforcement and rescue personnel, responded to the Rappahannock River to begin a search for the victim.  Darkness and imprecise information about the incident complicated the search.  The officers checked the area thoroughly with water and air assets, but no PWC or victim could be located. After an intensive search of the water, local boat ramps, hospitals, and other rescue agencies’ calls, it was determined that there was no victim in the water nor a missing PWC.

Hunter Uses Vehicle in an Unsafe and Illegal Act While Hunting – On September 3, 2022, with the opening day of dove season starting, Conservation Police Officers in District 13 conducted a saturation patrol for hunters in the City of Chesapeake.  While conducting surveillance on a group of hunters, CPOs saw one of the hunters shoot two doves from the inside of a pickup truck while in the field.  The officers approached the hunter, informed him of the illegal and unsafe activity, and charged him for the hunting from a vehicle violation.

 Random Check of Hunters Leads to Charges – On September 3, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Druy and First Sergeant Woodruff were patrolling Isle of Wight County during the dove hunting season when they encountered three hunters. While approaching the hunters, the officers observed corn scattered around the dove decoys. A license check of the hunters revealed that one of the hunters did not have a hunting license or HIP number.  The other two hunters were using shotguns capable of holding more than three shells. Enforcement action was taken for hunting over bait, failing to have a valid hunting license, and hunting migratory birds with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells.

Boating Safety Patrol Over a Busy Holiday Weekend – On September 3, 2022, Conservation Police Officers from Districts 13 and 14 teamed up for a late evening boat patrol to focus on alcohol-impaired boat operators in Isle of Wight County. CPOs Janicki and FitzGerald were recently reassigned to District 13 with the redistricting of Region 1 boundaries. The officers demonstrated an eagerness to learn the new work area and work with officers in their new district and the surrounding district. The patrol resulted in several violations for boating safety violations being detected, and appropriate enforcement action was taken.

Advice Given About Illegal Dove Hunting Field – On September 4, 2022, Conservation Police Officer First Class Chester began his shift patrolling Dinwiddie County for dove hunters during the season’s opening weekend. That evening, he encountered a group who had planned a dove hunt on property in the county. Through a conversation with the hunt organizer before the group began to hunt, CPO FC Chester learned that the field was seeded with wheat outside the guidelines of Virginia’s baiting laws. Given the circumstance and their conversation with CPO FC Chester, the group wisely did not hunt the area due to the bait located in the field.

Baited Dove Field Located by CPOs – On September 3, 2022, Conservation Police Officers from the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula districts worked a special assignment involving a planted sunflower field the officers had located in Richmond County that was baited with a large amount of wheat the day before the opening day of dove hunting season.  The officers encountered a dozen hunters shooting doves over the baited sunflower field.  Through their earlier investigation, the CPOs determined that the landowner was holding a paid dove hunt on the property and had spread over a ton of wheat on the field. The CPOs shut the field down from further hunting through consultation with a US Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent. They collected identifying information from all parties involved in the hunt.  This case will be forwarded to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for further review and to determine appropriate federal charges for the hunting/baiting violations uncovered by the CPOs.

Youth Fishing Event – On August 18, 2022, Conservation Police Officer First Class Zach Howlett assisted James City County Parks and Recreation with a youth fishing camp at Chickahominy Riverfront Park. The three-day camp consisted of learning the basics of casting, reeling, knot tying, baiting, crabbing, and seine netting. CPO FC Howlett, an avid angler, provided instruction on proper fishing techniques and fish species identification. The event was well attended.

Eastern Shore Rail Hunt – On September 10, 2022, Conservation Police Sergeant Garvis and Master CPO Bratton patrolled the Mockhorn Island WMA coastal marshes in Northampton Co. on the Eastern Shore. Tides were predicted to be higher than usual, making conditions suitable for hunting Clapper Rails.  Around 9 am, both CPOs observed two hunters motoring through the marsh and taking rails in violation of federal regulations by using the outboard motor propulsion while shooting rail. After the CPOs documented several occurrences of taking rail with the aid of the outboard motor, they approached and stopped the hunters in their boat.  CPO Bratton explained the violation to the hunters, and as the CPOs counted out the birds and transferred them into their patrol boat for evidence for court, Sgt Garvis observed a bird that was not a Clapper Rail. He identified the bird as a Short Billed Dowitcher. This is a protected shore bird species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be hunted. The hunters were advised of the additional charge for taking and possessing this protected shore bird.

Hunters are reminded to identify their intended game bird targets clearly and to keep informed about the migratory bird laws and regulations before hunting in the field.

Missing Kayaker in Virginia Beach – On September 13, 2022, Virginia Conservation Police were notified of an overdue kayaker in Virginia Beach in the vicinity of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  An empty kayak was located late afternoon by USCG air assets miles from the Virginia Beach oceanfront.  CPO First Class Chris Smith, Master CPO Dan Corley, and CPO Amanda DeZalia-Burks participated in an inter-agency search along the Virginia Beach oceanfront and Sandbridge area for the missing kayaker.  Virginia Conservation Police, Virginia Marine Police, Virginia Beach PD, Virginia Beach Fire Department, Virginia Beach EMS, the Port of Virginia and the US Coast Guard all participated in the multi-agency search.

Lake Chesdin Boat Incident – On September 17, 2022, Virginia Conservation Police investigated a double fatality boating incident on Lake Chesdin.  CPOs were initially notified of two missing persons in the water due to a boating accident at the lake in Dinwiddie County.  CPOs from Districts 14, 15 and 11 responded to the scene and confirmed the incident was a two boat collision and that two boaters were missing in the water.  The Chesterfield County Dive team recovered the missing persons shortly after the incident. CPO First Class Justin Hall and Sgt. Tyler Bumgarner led the investigation efforts for the Virginia Conservation Police.  Virginia State Police, Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office, Dinwiddie Fire/EMS, and Chesterfield PD/ Fire all assisted in the incident.

Conservation Police Officers Complete MLETP Boat Training Course. Throughout July and August, Virginia Conservation Police Sergeants Mark Brewer,  Tyler Bumgarner, and Senior CPO Dan Smith completed the Marine Law Enforcement Boat Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.  The course is a 19-day comprehensive law enforcement boat operator training program that includes classroom lectures and underway exercises aboard 30′ interceptor boats.  CPO Sergeant Mark Brewer was recognized as the honor graduate of his class for having obtained the highest cumulative exam score in his class session.  Sergeant Bumgarner and Senior CPO Smith also scored very highly during their class sessions.

Region II

Records Check Yields Wanted Subject – On August 26, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Brandon Harris observed three subjects fishing from the bank in the Banister River in Halifax County.  When asked for their fishing licenses, each stated they did not have one.  One individual was a juvenile and was able to provide his identification card.  The other two adult subjects did not have any form of identification on their person.  Master CPO Harris obtained identifying information for the adults and then checked and found one with an active warrant from Bedford County.  Summons were written for the fishing license violations, and the wanted suspect was arrested.  He was transported to Blue Ridge Regional Jail, where a capias warrant was executed for failure to appear in Bedford J&D Court.

Detective Work Pays Off – On August 28, 2022, Conservation Police Officers First Class Leslie Wright and Tyler Routon received information regarding illegal night hunting in Bedford County.  They were provided a blurry photograph of the suspect vehicle, but the license plate was not legible.  CPO FC Routon initiated the investigation, but his initial leads were unsuccessful.  He then sent the photo to CPO First Class James A. Hale, who identified the vehicle as a Volkswagen.  CPO FC Wright later observed a vehicle matching the description and was able to obtain a license plate number.  The officers conducted follow-up interviews and obtained confessions from the three involved suspects.  The appropriate action was taken.

Boating Under the Influence – On September 3, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Joe Williams was on boat patrol on Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County when he observed a boat operating after dark with unauthorized lighting equipment.  The vessel was stopped, and while the operator was retrieving his boater education card, Master CPO Williams observed him drop a plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance.  Master CPO Williams made additional observations which led him to initiate field sobriety tests.  The operator performed poorly and was taken into custody for operating under the influence.  Additional investigation is being conducted about the nature of the white powdery substance.

Stop Leads to Operating Under the Influence – On September 4, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Brandon Harris conducted a self-initiated solo boat patrol on Buggs Island Lake, in Mecklenburg County, during the Labor Day holiday weekend.  Master CPO Harris observed a motorboat with a registration violation and performed a stop on the vessel.  Master CPO Harris identified multiple safety equipment violations during the stop and observed evidence of alcohol consumption.  After recognizing signs of impairment from the operator, he administered field sobriety tests.  The operator was subsequently arrested for operating a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol and recorded a final BAC of 0.08.

Region III

Deer Killed with Rifle, Out of Season – On Sept 9, 2022, Sgt. John Koloda received information concerning a subject that heard a rifle shot close to dark in the Pulaski County area and thought it could be hunting-related. Based on the information, Sgt. Koloda was able to develop a suspect. Later that evening, Sgt. Koloda checked the suspect’s residence and was able to speak with him. Sgt. Koloda received a full confession from the suspect, who admittedly killed a deer with a rifle out of season. During the course of the investigation, Sgt. Koloda uncovered several additional violations, including placing bait for the purpose of hunting, using a caliber of less than .22 to hunt deer and failing to tag marijuana plants properly.  All violations were handled appropriately.

Investigation Complete and Successful in Parking Lot Damage – During the early part of August 2022, Senior CPO Ben Boyette started an investigation into persons damaging the gravel parking lots at Crooked Creek Wildlife Management in Carroll County. Senior CPO Boyette developed a suspect vehicle description, conducted a follow-up investigation with the owner, and found the persons involved in the damage.  Senior CPO Boyette’s investigation proved successful as the persons involved admitted spinning up the newly graveled parking lots and not having the required permits or licenses. A total of eight charges were placed on September 6, 2022, for the violations.

Region IV

Game Warden Experience: Ginseng Enforcement – On August 23–25, 2022, DWR hosted a seminar entitled Game Warden Experience: Ginseng Enforcement, created and led by Senior CPO Tim Bostic. CPOs from around the state attended, as did law enforcement from Shenandoah National Park, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney. The instruction was given at facilities within Shenandoah NP and DWR WMAs. It included plant identification and aging, ginseng poachers’ tactics and techniques, handling of ginseng evidence, and successfully prosecuting ginseng cases. Most of the seminar involved hiking remote areas of the Park and completing a practical exercise that included a wildlife checkpoint focusing on ginseng enforcement. All participants walked away with an enhanced knowledge of ginseng and enforcement techniques. They made numerous networking connections that can be used to increase their effectiveness in protecting this threatened species within their home districts.

  • September 29, 2022