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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

January 4 – 24, 2023

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.

Shooting from Roadway: On January 7, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Sally Baumbach and K9 Officer Ian Ostlund responded to a report of a hunter shooting a deer from a vehicle in Westmoreland County.  Upon investigation, the CPOs determined a deer was being run by a hunting dog toward a busy roadway.  A hunter driving down the road, pulled onto the shoulder of the roadway and shot across two lanes of traffic killing the deer. K9 Reese was deployed at the incident scene and located evidence consistent with witness reports.  A person of interest was interviewed that had just registered a deer at about the same time as the call for service had come in.  When presented with the evidence, he admitted to shooting from the vehicle and across the roadway.  Charges are pending after consultation with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

Closed Season Goose Hunters Caught: On January 2, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Cameron Dobyns patrolled Piscataway creek in Essex County for waterfowl hunting activity. CPO Dobyns noticed a group of hunters had several goose decoys out and were using a goose call. The season was closed for Canada Geese at that time. Dobyns observed the hunters harvest at least 1 Canada Goose and he moved to intercept them before they pulled their boat off the water. Dobyns contacted the 3 waterfowl hunters at a nearby boat ramp and conducted a wildlife inspection. The hunters all admitted to shooting at geese while they were duck hunting and Dobyns located 2 Canada Geese in the boat. All 3 hunters were charged for taking Canada Geese during the closed season.

Illegal Dog Retrieval: On January 6, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Sergeant Joshua Thomas and Officer Tyler Dagliano responded to a report of trespassing hunters in Gloucester County. The complainant told Dagliano he found a hunter on his private road with a firearm who claimed to be catching dogs and an argument ensued. When the CPOs arrived on scene, the hunter had left the scene in his vehicle that had illegal farm use tags and could not be traced. The CPOs continued down the private road and located a different vehicle with several hunters. The hunters said they were retrieving dogs and did not have permission to drive on the private road. The homeowner arrived during the interaction and was surprised to find a different group of hunters on the property. Appropriate action was taken at the request of the property owner.

Hunter Allegedly Assaulted: On January 7, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Sergeant Joshua Thomas, and CPO Roy Morris, responded to the report of a hunter/landowner conflict in Mathews County. Upon arriving on scene, the CPOs met with several hunters and landowners. Mathews County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police also responded to assist the CPOs. Upon speaking to all parties, there was evidence produced that a hunter’s dogs had chased a deer onto the private property where the landowner shot the deer. According to some of the statements provided, when the hunter went to retrieve his dogs from the property an argument ensued. During the argument, the landowner allegedly physically assaulted the dog owner.

Waterfowl, Over the Limit:  On December 27, 2022, Virginia Conservation Police Master Officer Brandon Harris was patrolling for waterfowl hunting activity in Halifax County.  Just after daylight, he heard several gunshots coming from an area with numerous ponds.  He soon located four hunters, checked their hunting licenses and the number of ducks that they had killed.  Ultimately, the hunters had more than their legal possession limit of mallard ducks and one hunter did not have the required federal duck stamp.  Appropriate charges were made, and warnings given.

Trophy Deer Poached:  On December 28, 2022, Virginia Conservation Police Master Officer Matt Sandy responded to a reckless handling of a firearm compliant and was assisted by Virginia Conservation Police K9 Officer Tyler Blanks and Bruno.  The CPOs determined that two hunters were attempting to retrieve their dogs when a large buck came out into the field, approximately 40 yards away.  One of the hunters decided to shoot, and killed the deer, unaware there was another hunter in the woods just beyond the deer.  The two hunters did not have permission to hunt on that property and were now trespassing.  Fortunately, no one was injured, and the two hunters were charged appropriately.

Pattern of Bad Behavior Revealed:  On December 22, 2022, Virginia Conservation Police Senior Officer Bruce Young concluded an investigation into illegal hunting in Henry County.  CPO Young had previously located an illegal deer feeder loaded with corn and had developed a potential suspect.  During conversations with the potential suspect, and a juvenile, CPO Young learned the potential violator had shot a doe over bait from a porch of his residence and that he had also encouraged the juvenile to shoot a button buck in the same manner.  Neither deer were checked in as required by law.  The appropriate action was taken.

Surveillance Pays Off:  On December 29, 2022, Virginia Conservation Police Officer First Class Leslie Wright located an individual hunting illegally from a baited tree stand in Bedford County.  CPO Wright had previously identified the baited stand and had been monitoring it.  When questioned, the potential violator admitted to placing corn to attract deer to his location and to refreshing it the previous day.  The appropriate action was taken.

 Cops and Kids Event:  On December 10, 2022, Virginia Conservation Police Officers from District 31 participated in the Cops and Kids Christmas event with other local law enforcement agencies.  Local children, identified throughout the New River Valley, were treated to lunch, an all-expense paid shopping excursion to the local Wal-Mart, and a surprise meeting with Santa.  Some of the families involved commented that they had a negative attitude towards police, but this event and the personal encounters with each officer, changed how they now viewed what law enforcement does for the community.  Plenty of smiles, high fives, and memories were shared by all participants.

Stranded Hunters Assisted by CPOs:  On January 14, 2023, Conservation Police Officers Tyler Dagliano and Sgt. Joshua Thomas were patrolling the Mattaponi River for waterfowl hunting activity. After inspecting several groups of hunters near Sandy Point, the officers decided to head up-river to investigate a series of gunshots. The weather conditions became poor due to strong wind with a combination of snow and freezing rain. The officers observed a LED light flashing near a small creek. Upon further investigation, the officers realized there were two young hunters flashing the light and waving their arms for help. The officers contacted the hunters and both young men were extremely happy to see the CPOs.  They explained that they had become stranded in the bad weather conditions when their boat experienced sudden mechanical failure. The CPOs returned the hunters safely to shore and they were picked up by a parent.

CPO Recognized by the NWTF:  On Saturday, January 14, 2023, Senior Conservation Police Officer Dan Smith was formally recognized by the Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation at their annual banquet in Roanoke, Virginia.  CPO Smith was awarded the Conservation Officer of the Year award for his efforts in conservation of the wild turkey as well as the preservation of turkey hunting heritage.  Senior Officer Smith is the Virginia State Chapter national nominee and will be representing Virginia at the NWTF national convention in Nashville, Tennessee in February.

Successful Holiday Weekend Waterfowl Saturation Patrol:  On January 13-16, 2023, Conservation Police Officers from Districts 11, 41, 44, 45, and 46 along with officers from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service conducted waterfowl saturation patrols on the lands and waters of Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford and King George counties.  The operation was designed to bring officers from multiple patrol districts together to maximize the group’s combined enforcement efforts.  Officers focused on four primary enforcement objectives: Public Safety, Resource Protection, Protecting Agency Property as well as License and Permit Compliance.  Throughout the holiday weekend, 16 officers consisting of 11 CPOs, 3 CPO Supervisors and 2 USFWS Officers located and contacted numerous waterfowl hunters. Throughout the weekend, low temperatures and high winds did not deter or prevent these officers from protecting Virginia’s wildlife and the hunting public.  Operations like this serve as a reminder of the hard work and dedication of Virginia’s Conservation Police Officers and their partner wildlife agencies.

Fatal Boating Incident:  On January 2, 2023, the Virginia Conservation Police were notified of a fatal boating incident on Smith Mountain Lake in Pittsylvania County.  Conservation Police Sergeant Jamie Slaughter, Senior Officers Dale Owens and Bruce Young, and Officer First Class Adam Roberts were the initial officers to respond.  Master Officers Eric Dotterer and Joe Williams, and Officers First Class James Hale, Leslie Wright, Tyler Routon, Cory Harbour, and Keith Wilson assisted with the subsequent search for the two missing boaters.  Also assisting with the search were the Virginia State Police, Smith Mountain Lake Fire & Rescue, Scruggs Fire & Rescue, and Cool Branch Fire & Rescue.  The remains of both individuals were recovered by divers from the Virginia State Police on January 5, 2023; four days after the initial incident.  The outpouring of support from the community along with the level of coordination and willingness to work together to achieve a common goal is commendable.  The investigation into the cause of the boating incident is still ongoing.

 Combine Efforts to End Deer Season:  On January 7, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Master Officers Eric Dotterer and Michael Morris, Senior Officers Bruce Young and Dale Owens, and Officers First Class Adam Roberts, James Hale, and Shane Wilson conducted a saturation patrol in Pittsylvania County.  Sergeant Jamie Slaughter coordinated the patrol which coincided with the last day of deer season.  The officers made many positive contacts throughout the day with both citizens and hunters.  CPOs Young and Owens assisted a hunter who was tracking a wounded deer.  Most hunters where in compliance, but there were violations detected to include stopping a vehicle in the highway and failure to display blaze orange.  The operation was a great opportunity for the officers to work across district boundaries while focusing efforts in an area with increased hunting activity.

Can’t Bait in Nottoway:  On December 31, 2022, Virginia Conservation Police Officer First Class Kevin Webb was patrolling for hunting activity in Nottoway County.  While patrolling, he located five baited deer hunting stands consisting of automatic corn feeders and mineral blocks.  On January 7, 2023, CPO Webb inspected the stands and found four hunters hunting from them.  The potential violators were charged with baiting, license violations and blaze orange violations.

Waterfowl Patrol: On January 11, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer First Class Kyle Jones patrolled the Jones Creek area of Isle of Wight County for waterfowl hunters.  As the end of legal hours approached, he heard shooting nearby and waited for the hunters to exit the area. CPO Jones contacted the hunters who were operating a boat without navigation lights after sunset.  Upon further inspection, Jones learned that the boat was unregistered.  The boat operator was also found to be using an unplugged shotgun and had no federal or state waterfowl stamps.  Summons were issued for the violations.

Spotlighting After Deer Season:  On January 17, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Sgt. Joe Rollings and Senior Officer Chris Gilmore were contacted by members of a local hunt club in Sussex County regarding suspicious activity on their property.  They advised that they had observed a light in a wooded area after dark and they investigated it.  They confronted a subject that said that his vehicle had broken down and that he was looking for a house in the wooded area.  The club members thought that there was more to the story so they felt that they should contact the local Conservation Police Officer and make a report of the activity.  Sgt. Rollings, Gilmore and CPO K9 Officer First Class Bonnie Brazil responded to the area and were able to locate evidence that a deer had been shot and wounded.  They also observed litter in the area where the individual had been parked.  With the vehicle description and tag number, the officers were able to identify a person of interest.  Sgt. Rollings and CPO Gilmore were able to locate and interview the individual who admitted to using his headlights to illuminate deer and shooting an antlerless deer after dark.  When asked about the littering, the individual also admitted to leaving trash in the area the previous night. A firearm and a second illegally taken deer were located in the individual’s truck.  Evidence was collected and the matter is still under investigation and appropriate charges will be filed.

Three Year Investigation Brought to Close:  For the previous three hunting seasons, Virginia Conservation Police Officers have worked with US Fish and Wildlife Officer Darren Dick conducting surveillance of a baited pond in Accomack County.  On January 7, 2023, CPO Master Officer Brian Bratton and USFWS Officer Dick finally found hunting activity in that area and heard shots coming from the baited area.  CPO Sgt. Steve Garvis assisted the officers by getting them into the location undetected.  The officers contacted the two hunters.  One of the hunters admitted to placing and hunting over the bait.  Appropriate charges were place against the hunters.

Hunting over Bait: On December 17, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Jon Hart was contacted in reference to someone hunting too close to a residence in Chesterfield County. During a foot patrol of the area, CPO Hart discovered a ground blind and bait in the immediate vicinity.  CPO Hart spoke with several neighbors and a local postman about the hunting.  He was able to ascertain a vehicle of interest which was a Subaru station wagon.  Hart canvassed two large neighborhoods in the area and was able to locate a vehicle matching the description.  Hart then contacted the owner of the vehicle who advised him that the blind in question was his and that he placed the bait for the purpose of taking deer.  An appropriate charge was placed for the violation.

 Region 4 CPOs Continue Successful Waterfowl Operation:  On January 21-22, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officers from Districts 41, 44, 45, and 46 continued their joint waterfowl saturation patrols focusing efforts on the creeks and streams that feed the Potomac River in Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties.  These joint patrols allow officers from multiple districts to focus their manpower and enforcement effort on specific areas.  Eight CPOs and three CPO Supervisors patrolled throughout the weekend on the land and water enforcing state and federal waterfowl laws and regulations.  These officers appropriately addressed the following violations; unlicensed hunting (both State and Federal), hunters hunting with an unplugged shotgun and unlicensed floating blinds.

CPOs Turn Focus to Waterfowl Enforcement:  On January 14, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officers First Class Adam Roberts and Shane Wilson were conducting a special patrol focused on waterfowl hunting enforcement in Botetourt County.  The officers checked an area and located an individual trespassing to hunt.  The potential violator was also in possession of a mallard duck which he had killed illegally on property where he did not have permission to hunt.  The appropriate action was taken.

Missing Hiker Rescued:  On January 15, 2023, Conservation Police Officer First Class Shane Wilson responded to a call regarding a missing hiker at Carvins Cove Reservoir in Botetourt County.  The individual had reportedly been missing since approximately 6:00PM the previous day.  After communicating with Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and Roanoke County Police Department personnel who were on scene, CPO Wilson requested a response from additional Department of Wildlife Resources officers.  Sgt. John Koloda, K9 Sgt. Richard Howald, K9 Officer Jacob Chaffin, Master Officers Joe Williams, Gene Wirt, and David Peake, Senior Officer Andy Rutledge, Officers First Class Adam Roberts and Tyler Routon, and Officer Rohrer all initiated a response.  CPO Wilson contacted the victim, via cell phone, and he provided a description of the area where he was located.  CPO Wilson was familiar with the area, so he launched a patrol boat, with assistance from CPO Roberts and VDEM personnel.  They were quickly able to locate the hiker who was rescued and transported back to safety.

A tremendously successful rescue by an outstanding group of dedicated law enforcement officers.

CPOs Search for Endangered Juvenile:  On January 18, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Sergeant Michael Morris, K9 Sergeant Richard Howald, K9 Officer Jacob Chaffin, Senior Officers Mark Shaw and Eric Rorabaugh, Officers First Class Adam Roberts, James Hale, Shane Wilson, Cory Harbour, and Nick Belotte assisted the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, in Roanoke County and Roanoke City, with the search for a missing and endangered juvenile.  K9 Sergeant Howald, K9 Officer Chaffin, and CPO Wilson tracked the juvenile to a nearby residence where they determined a bicycle had been stolen.  From there, the officers tracked the juvenile to the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway.  The other CPOs checked and cleared several areas on foot before learning of a confirmed sighting in Roanoke City.  CPOs responded to the secondary location and conducted a search of the area to include speaking with citizens and employees at local businesses.  Also assisting with the search were officers with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Roanoke County Police Department, the National Park Service, and Roanoke County Fire & EMS.  The juvenile was located safe later the same evening, in Bristol, Tennessee, in possession of a stolen U-Haul truck.

Hunting Incident with Injury:  On January 7, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Master Officer Wirt, Officer Rohrer, K9 Officer Chaffin and K9 Molly, and Sergeant Koloda responded to a hunting incident with injury in Giles County.  The initial call reported a hunter with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and a companion hunter stated the victim’s pistol went off during a deer drive.  The victim stated that he began sliding down an embankment, which caused his handgun to start falling from his holster.  While trying to prevent this, he inadvertently discharged the handgun striking himself in the right leg.  Evidence was recovered at the scene and the investigation determined that no violation of law had been committed.

  • January 26, 2023