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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

September 21 – October 11, 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

Fishermen Caught with Undersized Fish – On October 1, 2022, Conservation Police Officer First Class Kyle Jones was on patrol at a popular fishing area in Lancaster County along the Rappahannock River when he observed four individuals fishing at this location and began conducting surveillance on them. CPO FC Jones observed one fisherman stacking several rocks along the shoreline and manipulating something under the rocks.  CPO FC Jones made contact with the fishermen, inspected their creel limit and fishing licenses, and located 19 undersized scup fish in their catch. CPO FC Jones also located two undersized red drums under the stacked rocks. CPO C Jones placed appropriate fishing violation charges for this incident.

Hunting Incident Leads to Baiting Charges – On October 8, 2022, Conservation Police Officer First Class Brandon Chester was notified of a hunting incident in Dinwiddie County. CPO FC Chester and Senior CPO Joe Rollings responded to the scene to investigate. The victim had already been transported to the hospital with a shotgun wound to the lower leg. All other members of the hunting party remained on
scene and were cooperative with the investigation. The investigation revealed that the hunters were standing in timber waterfowl hunting. The shooter attempted to load his firearm and shot the victim in the lower leg from approximately 8 feet away. The investigation also revealed that the swamp was baited with approximately 200 pounds of corn. Appropriate charges will be place.

Region II

Trespassing and Vandalism – On September 9, 2022, Master CPO Michael Morris was contacted regarding a trespassing incident in Bedford County in which a posted sign had been vandalized and removed.  Master CPO Morris visited the location and developed a suspect.  He then conducted independent research at the county courthouse to ensure the suspect did not have legal access to the property in question via right-of-way.  Based on his findings and a follow-up interview with the suspect, the appropriate charges were placed.

Outreach Event – On September 30, 2022, Conservation Police Sergeant Sonny Nipper attended a Touch-a-Truck event at Amherst Middle School in Amherst County.  Sgt. Nipper brought his patrol vehicle and a marked patrol boat which drew the attention of the students due to the boat being different from the other service vehicles and his Durango looking “cool” according to some students.  He provided a talk to several different groups of children on what CPO’s do and how they use the vehicles and vessels for each season. VSP, Amherst Sheriff’s Office, Fire Dept., Rescue Squad, and VDOF were also in attendance.

Region III

Two-Year Investigation Leads to Felony Arrest – During the fall hunting season of 2019, Senior Conservation Police Officer Shaw heard a rumor about the possible commercialization of deer meat. Sr. CPO Shaw began his investigation to learn more about the possible violations. For the next two years, Sr. CPO Shaw continued to investigate and, based on tips received and surveillance activity was able to identify a suspect and locations where the suspect was selling the deer meat, mainly deer jerky.

Sr. CPO Shaw and Sergeant Koloda conducted surveillance and were able to document that the suspect was actively hunting on his private property and harvesting and processing a deer.  They were also able to determine the location of the dump site.

Both officers went to the suspect’s home in order to address the issue. Sr. CPO Shaw explained all the evidence and information that he had collected over the past two years concerning the sale of deer jerky. The suspect was cooperative and honest with the officers and showed them his operation. The suspect presented Officer Shaw with a receipt of sums of money collected during the sales. The suspect stated that he harvested deer during the hunting season and off permits.

The following violations were found during the investigation:

  • 1 Count of felony commercialization of wildlife exceeding $1000.00
  • 28 Counts of illegal possession of wildlife
  • 28 Counts of killing deer out of season
  • 28 Counts Permit must be carried and available for inspection during damage control activities.

“New River Trail Challenge” – On September 17, 2022, Conservation Police Sergeant John Koloda and Conservation Police Officer Ben Boyette assisted the New River Trail State Park with their annual triathlon race called the “New River Trail Challenge”.  The officers provided a boat as a safety patrol near a point on the New River where many of the kayakers have to navigate a difficult series of rapids and routinely required assistance.  The officers spent a large amount of the day in the area without any incidents.  The event covers over three counties and attracts dozens of dedicated racers from across the country.

Rural Retreat Lake Clean Up – On September 17, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Jason Harris assisted with the Rural Retreat Lake Clean Up that was sponsored by Wythe County Parks and Recreation. Master CPO Harris provided information to the participants regarding safety and then assisted with the actual clean up, picking up a considerable amount of trash and debris.  After the clean up an appreciation luncheon was held and Master CPO Harris was able to connect with participants and provided information about opportunities to connect with Virginia’s outdoors through boating, education, fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing and other wildlife-related activities.

Master CPO Harris spoke to the importance of protecting these valuable resources from litter, pollution, and abuse. Plans are underway for additional events at this venue as well as making plans for a clean-up in the spring of 2023.

“Touch a Truck” Event – On September 24, 2022, Conservation Police Officer Andrew Bobbitt attended the “Touch a Truck” event sponsored by the Bland County Volunteer Fire Department.  The event was to encourage the community to visit and see all the different emergency services within the county. CPO Bobbitt represented DWR and provided the River Road Jon Boat as a display. The boat was one of the favorite displays and the kids and adults enjoyed looking at it and asked numerous questions about the boat and how we use it.  CPO Bobbitt was also able to answer numerous questions for the upcoming hunting season and by doing so, was able to make many new contacts within the community.

Region IV

Ninth Annual Youth Sportsman Day – On September 24th, District 45 Officers worked with the Stafford Sheriff’s Office and Battlefield Bass for the ninth annual Youth Sportsman Day at Curtis Lake, Stafford County. This event consisted of several stations to teach youth about the great outdoors. The,                    stations were fly casting, turkey shoot, archery, casting game, fishing from a pontoon boat, Stafford Sheriff identi-kid, DWR K9 demonstration, and DWR had a station to answer hunting questions and discuss pelts of animals commonly seen in Virginia. This year’s event had approximately 60 youth attend, and some of the parents seemed more interested at times. DWR and Battlefield Bass worked together to secure close to $4000, 60 tackle boxes and fishing rods, several bow sets, two kayaks, and a lifetime fishing license. Every youth not only walked away with a prize, but they walked away with a smile and memories that will last a lifetime.

Bait Site Shut Down – On October 1, District 45 officers were on proactive patrol on the opening day of the 2022 deer season. Despite the arrival of hurricane Ian, suspicious vehicles were located in Stafford County. During the investigation, habitual offenders were identified as the likely operators of the vehicles. With the vital assistance of K9 Lilly, officers were able to follow an over 5-hour-old track to one hunter. This hunter was found to be hunting over substantial amounts of bait protected by a large number of cellular trail cameras. From their efforts, one more illegal bait site has been shut down.

 Hunting Over Bait Investigation Solved – On September 30, 2022, Conservation Police Officer Hawkins followed up on the hunting over bait case he had been investigating since 2021. During previous visits, Officer Hawkins observed a significant amount of bait, including corn, mineral blocks, and lick cans on trees.  In the early morning hours of September 30th, Officer Hawkins approached the baited hunting blind and observed an individual inside. The subject was contacted, and the appropriate actions were taken.

Enforcement Action Taken on Trespassing Hunters – On October 7, 2022, District 41 officers responded to a complaint of trespassing to hunt in Frederick County.  Officers located six waterfowl hunters who were hunting on the posted property without written permission from the landowner as well as several hunters who did not possess the necessary licenses to hunt migratory waterfowl in Virginia.  Appropriate enforcement action was taken.

Special Operations

K9 Sky Runs a Track and Locates Wanted Suspect – On September 24, 2022, while assisting with a public youth event at the Waynesboro Moose lodge. The Augusta County Deputies requested canine handler Master Officer Richard Howald to assist in running a track with K9 Sky. The suspect had fled on foot from a vehicle pursuit the night before and had just fled on foot again, while officers were trying to take him into custody.  The suspect also had warrants out for his arrest in the surrounding counties. Officer Howald arrived on the scene and deployed K9 Sky while the Augusta Deputies and the apprehension canine provided security. Sky tracked through thickly vegetated woods, into a creek with thigh-deep water, leaving the creek several times then back across it, into thick woods, into a cut hay field, then back into the very tall grass in a wooded area. While tracking in the very thick waist high grass with down trees in it, Sky came to a stop and sat.  Officer Howald moved forward and could see she was sitting next to the suspects’ feet, he had completely covered himself with the thick vegetation. The suspect was taken into custody by Augusta County Deputies.

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  • October 27, 2022