Several wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division were recently recognized for exceptional performances. Awards were presented in front of their peers during a CDFW luncheon held in January 2017, in conjunction with CDFW’s annual Advanced Officer Training. Many of the awards are issued directly by CDFW, while others are issued through non-government organizations that support the mission and efforts of CDFW and its officers. At the core of each award are the exemplary efforts and commitment these officers have demonstrated, above and beyond the normal course of their duties.
The honored officers represent Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Inyo, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Shasta and Siskiyou counties.
Awards included the following:
CDFW Exemplary Service Award: Medal of Valor – Warden Michael Dilts (Patrol Vessel Coho, Los Angeles County)
In July 2016, Warden Dilts was patrolling in the Seal Beach area near the San Gabriel River, when he was flagged down by two pedestrians who told him that a vehicle was in the river and the female driver still inside. In the front seat of the partially submerged van, Warden Dilts found a woman who was making no attempt to escape. He immediately radioed for additional officer assistance, removed and secured his heavy duty belt and entered the water. Warden Dilts swam to the sinking van, extricated the driver and pulled her back to shore. Thanks to the quick actions and dedication of Warden Dilts, the driver was rescued and the fully submerged van was recovered from the river.
CDFW Regional Wildlife Officer(s) of the Year
The following officers were selected and awarded recognition for exceptional performances within the six CDFW geographical enforcement districts throughout California, with one being elevated to the status of Statewide Wildlife Officer of the Year: Headquarters, Warden Lyle Chan (Merced); Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Warden Mike Conely (Fresno); Southern Enforcement District, Warden Michele Budish (Los Angeles); Central Enforcement District, Warden Art Golden (Kings); Northern Enforcement District, Warden Jerry Karnow, Jr. (Nevada County and recently retired); North Coast Enforcement District and Statewide Wildlife Officer of the Year, who was acknowledged in a separate news release, Warden Nicole Kozicki (Contra Costa County).
CDFW Exemplary Service Award: Lifesaving – Warden Chad Edwards (Siskiyou)
In September 2014, an arsonist ignited a brush fire on the outskirts of the town of Weed. The fire spread into town where it burned more than 150 homes and numerous commercial structures in a matter of hours. Warden Edwards heard the radio traffic regarding the fire and immediately responded to the area. He evacuated homes by transporting people in his patrol truck and flagged down other evacuees with empty seats in their cars to shuttle people out. Working through the chaos of the actively burning areas and aerial retardant dump, Warden Edwards made trip after trip into the burning neighborhoods to rescue stranded families, senior citizens and pets. Warden Edwards acted with bravery above and beyond the call of duty. Amazingly, no lives were lost in this fire, due in part to the actions of Warden Edwards.
CDFW Exemplary Service Award: Lifesaving – Warden Aaron Galwey (Shasta)
In July 2016, Warden Galwey was off-duty, fishing from a boat on the Sacramento River with friends, when he saw a woman struggling in the current and calling for help. The woman was holding onto a branch while trying to keep her head above water, and there was an empty raft mangled in the bushes nearby. As he motored towards the woman and the raft, there was an additional capsized vessel with two men clinging to it who had just attempted a rescue, and another man floating upstream. Warden Galwey maneuvered his vessel alongside the panicked woman and pulled her into the boat, while the man upstream made it to the river’s edge and pulled himself from the water. Warden Galwey attached a line to the capsized boat, pulled the two men and their vessel to safety, then went back to pick up the man from the river’s edge and bring him back to his female companion. All four subjects escaped serious injury, thanks to the decisive and rapid actions of Warden Galwey.
Shikar-Safari Club International (SSCI) Wildlife Officer of the Year – Lt. Bill Dailey (Inyo)
Lt. Dailey exhibits the inherent qualities of a leader by modeling professionalism, developing innovative programs, contributing fresh ideas, maintaining a positive attitude, and demonstrating and encouraging commitment. In 2016, Lt. Dailey worked with his squad to develop innovative, proactive public outreach strategies to better connect with the community they serve, increase his squad’s productivity combatting poaching in their districts and to introduce CDFW’s Hunter Education Program into local public schools.
National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Wildlife Officer of the Year and CDFW Trainer of the Year Award – Warden Adam Kraft (Placer)
Warden Kraft is energetic, enthusiastic and passionate about apprehending poachers. He is known for working extended hours, drafting complex operations and backpacking miles into remote areas to catch violators. In 2016, Warden Kraft led numerous operations resulting in arrests and citations for take out of season, shooting from vehicles, spotlighting, having a loaded long gun in a vehicle, no license or tag, unlawful possession of wildlife, overlimits of species and delaying an officer/evading arrest. Warden Kraft is dedicated to the Hunter Education Program and regularly participates in training courses. He is a seasoned Field Training Officer, an active instructor at the CDFW law enforcement academy, a firearms and range master and a defensive tactics instructor. He is also an avid outdoorsman and promoter of conservation and the CDFW mission.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Wildlife Officer of the Year – Warden Brian Gallaher (Modoc)
Warden Gallaher takes a very active role in his community of Alturas. He is skilled at both general public outreach and relationship building, as well as promoting Hunter Education courses. He developed and teaches an archery-focused course for adults and children, which provides a positive learning opportunity and promotes respect for and enjoyment of the outdoors. Warden Gallaher’s notable contribution in 2016 was his successful completion of a significant elk poaching case. Working off of a CalTIP report involving a suspect who allegedly took two bull elk under one legal tag, Warden Gallaher began an investigation which led to a search warrant. Under the warrant, officers discovered electronic and physical evidence including photos, meat and antlers. Warden Gallaher analyzed and compared the evidence to build a strong case. The suspect pled guilty to six poaching charges and was ultimately placed on probation for three years, paid a fine of $4,800, had his hunting license suspended for one year and his gear and elk forfeited.
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-9982