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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

April 5 – 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.

Region 1

CPO Assists Local Sheriff’s Deputies:  On April 1, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Andrew Jones was responding to a report of a boat taking on water in the Chesapeake Bay.  As he was approaching the Shell Landing area, Jones observed two sheriff’s deputies in the front yard of a house taking cover with firearms drawn.  Realizing the officers may needed assistance, Jones retrieved his patrol rifle from his vehicle and made his way over to provide cover for the two deputies.  The deputies were then able to fall back to his location.  Once the two deputies were back behind the cover of the vehicles, they explained that they had been conducting a welfare check on an individual.  As they were contacting the individual, he stated that he was going to kill the officers.  Jones assisted with providing a security zone around the house until the subject was able to be taken into custody.

Region 2

District 23 VCP Officer and Wildlife Biologist attend Career Day:  On March 28, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer First Class Keith Wilson and District Wildlife Biologist Sarah Peltier attended Lynchburg Christian Academy’s 8th Annual College and Career Day.  A Department of Wildlife Resources outreach booth was set up in the gymnasium where approximately 475 students were in attendance. During the day, CPO Wilson and DB Sarah Peltier relocated to a classroom as featured speakers to give an informative lecture to the senior class.  The lecture covered DWR’s mission to Conserve, Connect, and Protect, and discussed how to prepare yourself for a job with DWR.  This discussion included such topics as education, job experience and how past conduct may affect one’s chance of being hired.  They closed the session with question and answers.  Several students seemed very excited and eager to become a biologist or Conservation Police Officer.

Youth Outreach Event:  On April 8, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Master Officer Gavin Fariss attended a youth Easter egg hunt/public outreach event in Prince Edward County.  First responders, local Police departments, and local sheriff’s deputies interacted and mingled with approximately 45 youths of all ages.  CPO Fariss answered questions, handed out regulation pamphlets and Department of wildlife Resources (DWR)  stickers, and provided a police vehicle demonstration for the kids.  CPO Fariss also participated in a door prize raffle by presenting a 3-person tent to the event staff for use as an additional prize opportunity.  The tent was donated by a local retailer for DWR outreach.

Youth Outreach Event:  On April 15, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Jared Howell, and Sergeant Brandon Harris participated in the 2nd Annual Cops and Bobbers Youth Fishing Event in Halifax County.  This event was hosted by the South Boston Police Department and Halifax County 4H. Officer Howell, Sergeant Harris, and members of other local and state law enforcement agencies spent the afternoon helping over 20 young anglers learn proper fishing techniques.  The youth were taught how to tie fishing knots, bait hooks, and cast the provided rods and reels.  Using these new skills, the participants caught several fish and received prizes for their catch.  In addition to teaching the children about fishing, Officer Howell, and Sergeant Harris, met and had many positive interactions with the adults in attendance.  Photos are included below, and release forms are available if needed.

Youth Outreach Event:  On April 19, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Jared Howell, and Department of Wildlife Resources Fisheries Biologist Dan Michaelson, participated in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) fishing tournament at Randolph Henry High School in Charlotte County.  Officer Howell spoke to the youth about the duties of a Conservation Police Officer (CPO), explained the steps involved in becoming a CPO, and provided a brief boating safety talk explaining the importance of wearing Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) while boating.  CPO Howell assisted the tournament participants by teaching fishing techniques, baiting hooks, and handling fish that had been caught by the young anglers.  Many fish were caught during the event and prizes were awarded.  This event is a great example of CPOs and Biologists working together to introduce young people to angling and the outdoors.

District 23 Supervisor attends Outdoor Expo:  On April 22, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Sergeant Sonny Nipper attended the 2nd Annual Amherst Outdoor Expo at the Izaak Walton League of Lynchburg in Amherst County.  Sergeant Nipper set up an exhibit which showcased and displayed several seized and forfeited deer antlers, a large black bear, and a marked patrol boat and patrol vehicle.  Despite the rain, several local constituents attended the event and had expressive conversation with Sergeant Nipper about the trophy antlers from deer locally poached.

Illegal Possession of a Bear Cub:  On April 11, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer First Class Leslie Wright initiated an investigation into the illegal possession of a bear cub in Bedford County.  CPO Wright quickly developed a potential suspect and Sergeant Michael Morris gathered additional information indicating a second individual.  CPO Wright conducted interviews and learned the suspects were hiking when they encountered a mother bear and three cubs.  The mother and two cubs ran away but the third cub stayed behind and appeared injured.  The potential suspects decided to take the bear cub home to take care of it only to find out they were not capable of doing so.  They soon returned the bear cub to the area and abandoned it.  The bear cub was located the following day and transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia but unfortunately did not respond to any treatment and had to be euthanized.  The morale of the story is that citizens should never try to care for wildlife on their own since it is illegal and can be dangerous to both people and the wildlife.

Virginia Conservation Police Officers Join Force with Franklin County Parks & Recreation:  On April 15, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officers First Class Adam Roberts, James A. Hale, and Sergeant Jamie Slaughter attended the Annual Kid’s Fishing Day event hosted by Franklin County Parks and Recreation.  The CPOs had the opportunity to interact with an array of citizens including approximately 170 children who were in attendance.  Trophies were presented for the angler who caught the smallest and largest fish.  Virginia Conservation Police Officers play a vital role in connecting citizens of the Commonwealth to Virginia’s natural resources and actively seek opportunities to motivate young people to go outdoors.

Region 3

Patrol Yields Trout Fishing Violations:  On April 3, 2023, Conservation Police Officer First Class Josh Guizar was patrolling the North Fork Pound River area in Wise County.  This was in response to several reports he had received of fishermen keeping trout they had caught in the delayed harvest trout fishing area.  CPO Guizar observed an individual fishing along the bank while the Department of Wildlife Resources Fisheries Division stocking truck was actively stocking fish.  While walking towards the fishermen to conduct a compliance check, CPO Guizar observed him place a fish on his stringer and put it in the water.   The fisherman had already caught 6 trout and was also using bait in restricted use trout waters.  The potential violator stated to CPO Guizar, “I guess I should brush up on the regulations!”.  He was issued a summons for exceeding the creel limit and using bait in delayed harvest waters.

Closed Season Turkey Hunter gets Nabbed:  On April 7, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Master Officer Gene Wirt responded to a Pulaski County call where a suspicious vehicle was parked next to a “No Trespassing” sign on property that CPO Wirt was familiar with.  As he was arriving, he noticed an individual dressed in dark clothing about 700 yards away standing in a field.  When the individual saw his patrol vehicle approaching, he ran into a wooded area.  CPO Ron Wood, CPO K9 Officer Chaffin, along with K9 Molly, came to assist.  Through diligent efforts, the officers soon located the trespassing subject who was wearing camouflage, carrying a turkey decoy and a turkey caller.  Initially, he stated he was simply calling turkeys and was aware that the season was still closed.  The CPO’s continued their investigation and in short time located a loaded shotgun hidden in the brush.  The potential violator is a convicted felon and unable to lawfully possess a firearm.  He later admitted that the firearm was his.  Appropriate action was taken.

Hunter Contact results in Illegal Turkey Baiting Case:   On the opening day of spring turkey season, April 8, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Sergeant Wes Billings, and Conservation Police Master Officer Jason Harris, followed up on a complaint of possible illegal turkey hunting over bait in Smyth County.  The officers checked the baited site, but the hunter(s) never arrived, so they made plans to monitor it.  Later that same morning, they were patrolling near the Wythe and Smyth County line and encountered a successful hunter who had harvested a turkey but had not begun the process to legally possess it.  During their conversation, this hunter told them that he was upset because the location he had originally planned to hunt was illegally baited.  Ironically, the CPOs soon realized that the location they had went to earlier that morning was the very location this hunter was talking about.  They soon developed a potential suspect and learned that he had put the bait out.  They also learned that he had hunted there on Youth Turkey Weekend and had placed the bait a few days prior.

Public Outreach:  On April 13, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Master Officer Jason Harris presented a program on wildlife conflict at the quarterly meeting of the New River Wildlife and Conservation Club in Grayson County.  Part of the information presented was on Black Bear human conflicts, which seems to increase in the area during this time of the year.  Resource information about dealing with wildlife conflict was provided at the end of the program.

Following the program, a presentation of the OPS Protector Challenge Coin and certificate were presented to Keith Andrews, current president of the club, CWF volunteer, and hunter education instructor for his continued efforts in support of the Law Enforcement Division.  Mr. Andrews efforts, and hundreds of hours of volunteer time, support the DWR mission of “Protectors of Virginias Wildlife and Natural Resources”.

Observation Leads to a Driving Under the Influence Arrest:  On April 16, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Ron Wood had just completed a boat patrol on Claytor Lake in Pulaski County when a vehicle driving in the small marina parking lot drew his attention.  He watched this vehicle as it accelerated quickly in reverse causing damage to the boat trailer it was towing.  Immediately, the vehicle operator accelerated away from the marina at a high rate of speed. CPO Wood was initially unable to locate the vehicle, but soon did and initiated a traffic stop.  CPO Wood immediately detected a strong odor of alcohol emitting from the operator.  Based on the driver’s actions, statements, and his investigation, CPO Wood arrested the operator for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

Region 4

Closed Season Turkey Hunting – On Sunday, April 2, Senior Conservation Police Officer Justin Chambers received information that two adults had gone hunting in Frederick County on Youth and Apprentice Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend and had illegally harvested three birds.  CPOs Chambers and Jackson along with CPO K9 handler Ian Ostlund with K9 Reese, responded to the property where the offenses allegedly occurred. The CPOs located five illegally harvested turkeys that had been dumped in a ravine after the meat, beards, tail fans and spurs were removed as trophies. The CPOs conducted suspect interviews where four persons admitted to illegally harvesting the 5 turkeys on the second day of the Youth/Apprentice hunting weekend. The beards, fans and spurs were seized as evidence and appropriate charges were placed.

Augusta County Turkey Hunting Incident:  On April 08, 2023, a 27-year-old turkey hunter was shot by another hunter in the Staunton area of Augusta County.   Virginia Conservation Police Officers were notified of the incident and responded to investigate.  As CPOs arrived on the scene, a medivac helicopter had just taken off to fly the victim to UVA Hospital.  CPOs along with the DWR Region 4 Hunting Incident Investigation Team interviewed witnesses and collected and processed evidence.  DWR K9 Reese was deployed at the scene and additional evidence was located.  Conservation Police Officers are the primary investigators for all hunting and boating accidents in Virginia.  Doctors at UVA Hospital stated that the victim was in stable condition.  The incident is currently still under investigation.  This incident is a reminder to all hunters to be sure of their target and what is beyond.

Opening Day Turkey Baiter’s Tale Didn’t Add Up: On April 8, 2023, the opening day of the spring turkey season, Virginia Conservation Police officers in Loudoun County were on patrol for turkey violators.  Master Officer Steve Hicks, Senior Officer Alberto Medina and Sergeant Rich Goszka concentrated their efforts around the Bluemont area of the county.  Before the season came in, CPO Medina had located a field that had an active corn feeder and a turkey blind in it.  In the early morning hours, the CPOs contacted a hunter, who was hunting from the blind and asked him about the feeder.  The hunter initially told the CPOs he had placed the corn feeder in the field to provide extra nutrients to deer as they grow their antlers.  Unfortunately for him, Loudoun County is located within Disease Management Area 2 where the feeding of deer is unlawful year-round.  When presented with this additional information, the hunter admitted to placing the feeder there to keep turkeys in the area so that he could hunt them.  Appropriate enforcement action was taken.

Anadromous Fish Enforcement Operation Nets Illegal Anglers:  From April 09-16, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officers from District 46 have been conducting anadromous fish enforcement operations along the creeks and rivers that feed the Potomac River in Arlington, and Prince William Counties.  The operational efforts involved both uniformed and plain clothes patrols during peak fishing periods of the herring run.  CPOs were able to observe people fishing illegally using nets and other methods.  When conducting fishing license compliance checks of anglers, the officers found that many people didn’t possess the required license to fish.  Conservation Police Officers play a vital part in the protection of all of Virginia’s wildlife and fish populations. The efforts of these officers led to 37 summonses for fishing violations during this period.

Double Boating Incidents Reported on Lake Anna: On April 16, 2023, Virginia Conservation Police Officers Heberling and Eller responded to the report of a large fight at Lake Anna State Park. Upon arrival, it was found that a boating incident had occurred between two personal watercraft causing cosmetic damage to one vessel. CPOs Heberling and Eller investigated the boating incident and determined it did not meet the criteria of a reportable boat incident. Approximately three hours later, both CPOs responded to the same area for a report of a capsized vessel near the Lake Anna State Park boat ramp. Once on scene, the vessel was found to be safely moored along the shore with no reported damage or injuries. Thankfully, it was the best-case scenario for everyone involved. The boating public is reminded to be safety conscious during the boating season by taking a boat education course and making sure all necessary safety equipment is serviceable and on board before hitting the water, especially a PFD ( life jacket ) for everyone onboard.

Trout Saturation Patrols Reveal Voluntary Compliance: On April 14, Virginia Conservation Police from District 43 conducted saturation patrols on two designated trout waters in Albemarle County.  Fifteen   anglers were checked and no violations were detected.  DWR and the CPOs of District 43 truly appreciate the voluntary compliance of these dedicated sportsmen and women and their passion for the outdoors.

Wildlife Checkpoint on Rapidan WMA:  On April 15, Virginia Conservation Police from District 44 and K9 Officer Mark DiLuigi with K9 Lily conducted a wildlife checkpoint on the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area to ensure resource protection during a busy spring gobbler season.  Eighteen hunters and outdoor enthusiasts were checked and two violations were detected.  More importantly, face-to-face contact with CPOs enabled many of our WMA users the opportunity to ask questions regarding the WMA, wildlife resources and wildlife laws.

Fredericksburg Kids Fishing Day:  On Saturday April 15th, Virginia Conservation Police in District 45 held its annual Kids Fishing Day at the Old Cossey Pond in Fredericksburg. Every year, the CPOs plan this event and assists children with catching trout that DWR stocks in the pond. Several children caught fish such as rainbow trout, catfish and a 14-pound carp. Not only did the kids fish in the rain and win prizes such as fishing poles, but they walked away with a smile and memories to last a lifetime.

Special Operations

Officers Provide a Presentation on the role of a CPO and K9 Officer to Middle School: On April 3, 2023, Conservation Police Officer’s Derrick Rickles, and Mark VanDyke with his K-9 partner Coal, conducted a K-9 presentation for 8th graders at L.F. Addington Middle School, in Wise County.  Officer Rickles spoke about the responsibilities of a Virginia CPO and the importance of wildlife conservation. Officer VanDyke spoke on the role and responsibilities of DWR’s K-9 units.  Officer VanDyke discussed the training a handler and their K-9 partners have to complete, as well as the selection process for the K-9s. Deer antlers and animal pelts were on hand for students to identify.  Many of the students were able to identify the animal species by the pelt. Some students expressed interest in a career as a CPO and the officers were able to provide advice to those seeking a career as a CPO.  After the presentation, students and staff were able to meet and interact with Coal.

  • April 27, 2023