Category Archives: big game

Massive Poached Sacramento County Deer Leads to Trophy Penalty Enhancement

A Sacramento County man entered a no contest plea Tuesday to charges of poaching a huge blacktail deer in Sacramento County. John Frederick Kautz, 51, of Lodi, was charged with possession of an illegally poached deer and falsification of deer tag reporting information, both misdemeanors, following a three-month investigation.

Poached deer with trophy-sized antlers. December 2017.
Poached deer with trophy-sized antlers. December 2017.

Kautz illegally killed the trophy-sized buck on private property in Wilton in December 2016, two months after the deer season closed in the area. The deer had an antler spread of 31 inches with four antler points on one side and five on the other, which is an unusually large size for this part of California.

Kautz transported the illegally killed deer across state lines to Nevada to have the deer head mounted by a taxidermist. Kautz was also working through the process of scoring the trophy class buck to have it entered into the Safari Club International hunting record book. The deer’s trophy-sized antlers would have been surely accepted if the animal had been legally taken. However, the poaching conviction for the buck makes it ineligible for that recognition.

Working on a tip provided in September 2017, Wildlife Officers Sean Pirtle and Anthony Marrone spent an exhaustive three months on the investigation, collecting evidence that would prove the year-old incident was an act of poaching. Through extensive interviews, multiple search warrants and forensic analysis of computer records, and with the help of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Computer Crimes Unit, they slowly pieced together the puzzle. Then, collaborating with Nevada game wardens who conducted multiple follow-up interviews outside of California, they worked together in an attempt to track down the actual deer that had been mounted by the Nevada taxidermist.

All California wildlife officers are federally deputized to investigate fish and wildlife crimes anywhere in the United States. The wildlife officers submitted the case to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

On Dec. 19, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney David Brown announced a plea bargain resulting in a conviction of two poaching related misdemeanors. Kautz was sentenced to two days in county jail, placed on three years probation with a search and seizure clause, ordered to surrender the mounted deer head and was prohibited by the court from hunting or accompanying anyone else who is hunting during his probation. The fine was set at $5,000 pursuant to a new legislation and regulation package which took effect on July 1, 2017, increasing penalties associated with poaching “trophy class” or very large wild game animals.

The vast majority of hunters are ethical and abide by hunting laws and regulations, including the individual who provided this tip that helped lead to Kautz’s conviction.

“We would like to thank our wildlife law enforcement partners in Nevada and the CHP, and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office for their assistance in this investigation and the subsequent prosecution, and the hunter who gave us the original tip,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Law Enforcement Division Chief.

“We are also pleased how the newly effective legislation and regulations package helped increase the penalties in this case to hopefully deter others from the same poaching behavior. A case like this is exactly why this package was enacted.”

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Media Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692 

California Elk Plan Draft Now Available for Public Comment

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has released a draft of the Statewide Elk Conservation and Management Plan for public review and comment. The plan provides guidance and direction to help set priorities for elk management efforts statewide.

“This draft plan is an important milestone for many of our wildlife program staff, and we’re pleased to be one step closer to completion,” said CDFW Wildlife Branch Chief Kari Lewis. “Public feedback is a critical part of shaping this effort, which emphasizes the sharing of resources and collaboration with all parties interested in elk and elk management. These are essential for effective management of California’s elk populations.”

The overarching plan addresses historical and current geographic range, habitat conditions and trends, and major factors affecting Roosevelt, Rocky Mountain and tule elk in California. The plan also includes subsections that are specific to each of the 22 Elk Management Units (EMUs) in California. These areas collectively comprise the currently known distribution of elk in California. Each subsection includes a description of the EMU and information about elk distribution and abundance, management goals, objectives and actions, herd viability and a summary of annual harvests in that unit.

The plan also outlines management actions that emphasize maintenance and improvement of habitat conditions on both public and private land.

All public comments should be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. Comments may be submitted online at ElkManagementPlan@wildlife.ca.gov, or can be mailed to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Wildlife Branch, Attn: Joe Hobbs
1812 Ninth St.
Sacramento, CA  95811

Comments received by the deadline will be reviewed by CDFW, and appropriate changes will be incorporated into the final document prior to its anticipated release in early 2018.

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Media Contacts:
Joe Hobbs, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-9992
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 212-7352

 

New Laws Enhance Poaching Penalties to Better Protect Wildlife

As many big game hunting seasons progress into the fall, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers have a new tool to deter poaching and punish violators for serious poaching crimes.

Legislation sponsored by the wildlife conservation community approved enhancements of penalties for the illegal take of trophy-class animals. Under Fish and Game Code (FGC) section 12013.3 penalties are significantly enhanced for any person convicted of poaching deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and wild turkey with certain characteristics that would define them as trophy game animal.

In addition to the legislation that enhanced poaching penalties, the California Fish and Game Commission developed regulations to define those trophy characteristics. Commissioners worked with the CDFW and several outdoors, conservation and hunting organizations to define the characteristics in California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 14, section 748.6. The legislation and regulation package went into full effect on July 1, 2017.

In summary, “…the punishment for a person who knowingly violated and has been convicted of [take out of season, spotlighting, baiting, waste of meat, or take without a tag]… where the violation involved a trophy… deer, elk, antelope, or bighorn sheep shall be a fine of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) nor more than forty thousand dollars ($40,000), and where the violation involved a wild turkey, a fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2,000) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or both that fine and imprisonment.”

“The first case adjudicated after the trophy law took effect exemplifies the potential benefits this enhancement law could have on wildlife protection,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.

On July 5, 2017, Garrett Thomas Peacock, 22, of Yuba City, was sentenced to two years’ probation with a restriction from hunting during that time and ordered to pay $5,150 in fines and penalties. The case began months prior when wildlife officers, acting upon an anonymous CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poacher and Polluters), contacted Peacock during a follow-up investigation. The investigation revealed that Peacock unlawfully killed a trophy class “buck” deer without permission in an orchard on private property in Maxwell in Colusa County. Peacock did not possess the required deer tag at the time of the killing. Officers recovered photographic evidence, deer antlers, numerous packages of meat and a deer tag purchased after the fact from Peacock.

“Unlawfully targeting animals for their trophy qualities is an egregious violation,” said Chief Bess.  “Under the enhanced penalties of this law, the punishment will more closely match the severity of these types of poaching crimes.”

Anyone with information about unlawful fishing, hunting or pollution is encouraged to contact CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. The CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, is printed on the back of every hunting and fishing license. Tips can also be relayed by text to 847411 (tip411). Text messages allow for a two-way conversation with wildlife officers, while preserving the anonymity of the tipster. Texts should begin with the word “CALTIP,” followed by a space and the message. There is also an app for smartphones that works similarly. For more information on the program and the CalTIP app, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.

Media Contact:
Captain Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

Celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day by Getting Outdoors

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are joining to celebrate California’s long-standing outdoor heritage and the contributions made to wildlife conservation by hunters and anglers on National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Saturday, Sept. 23 is National Hunting and Fishing Day and California hunting and fishing seasons are in full swing. Currently deer, bear, grouse, early mountain quail, rabbit, and tree squirrel seasons are underway across the state. The high country streams, rivers and lakes are in peak form. This is prime time.

Together, CDFW and BLM are proud to promote the excellent hunting and fishing opportunities available on public lands. BLM-managed public lands in California offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, boating and backcountry exploring. Millions of acres of public land are available for hunting and thousands of miles of rivers and streams are available for fishing in California. CDFW is responsible for over 1 million acres of fish and wildlife habitat, managed through 749 properties throughout the state. These properties provide habitat for a rich diversity of fish, wildlife and plant species.

Hunters and anglers are advised to check area closures and local restrictions before heading out. Fire season is here and several large wildfires are burning currently, which may close some areas to hunting and fishing. Additionally, the severe winter damaged roads, which may account for other closures or restricted access. Information on area closures is available at wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/area-alerts.

While current target shooting restrictions are in place on some BLM-managed public lands, hunting in those areas is open with a valid hunting license. For updates on BLM restrictions visit: blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation/regional-info/california/fire-restrictions.

For the 2016 season, a record 84 percent of deer tag holders complied with California’s new mandatory deer tag reporting requirement. CDFW thanks all those who reported and hopes for increased participation following the 2017 season. The reports are vital to estimating deer populations and setting tag quotas for the coming hunting season.

California is phasing-in the use of non-lead ammunition for hunting. Lead ammunition is permitted in 2017 for hunting deer in California outside of the California condor range, state wildlife areas or ecological reserves where non-lead ammunition is required. Learn more about California’s phase-in of nonlead ammunition for hunting by visiting wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Nonlead-Ammunition.

Hunters and anglers are often referred to as the original conservationists. CDFW and BLM value the many contributions they make to fish and wildlife conservation efforts in the Golden State.

For more information about California’s hunting and fishing seasons, licenses and tags, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov.

For more information about BLM lands and outdoor activities, please visit www.blm.gov/california.

Media Contacts:
Samantha Storms, BLM Communications, (916) 978-4615
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824

California’s General Deer Season Opens Sept. 16 Across Much of the State; Hunters Advised to Check Area Closures Before Heading Out

Deer season is already underway in California’s A and B4 deer hunting zones along the coast, but the majority of general zones – B1-B3, B5, B6, C1-C4, D6 and D7 – open Saturday, Sept. 16.

Several other deer hunting zones – D3-D5 and D8-D10 – open the following week, on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Severe winter weather conditions took a toll on some migratory deer populations and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reduced the number of tags for a few popular areas in order to sustain herds over the long term. Not all populations suffered heavy winter losses, however, and CDFW’s trail cameras and fecal DNA studies revealed bucks out there for the taking.

“One benefit from the above-average rain and snowfall this winter is that we did see an early green-up,” said Stuart Itoga, senior environmental scientist and the CDFW’s deer program coordinator. “Plentiful forage and water are generally helping deer populations recover from multiple years of drought.”

Detailed information on California’s various deer zones, including season dates, descriptions and maps, is available at CDFW’s Deer Hunting webpage: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Deer#54773-seasons.

Hunters are strongly advised to check area closures and local restrictions before heading out. Fire season is here and several large wildfires are burning currently, which may close some areas to hunting. Additionally, the severe winter damaged roads in some areas, which may account for other closures or restricted access. Information on area closures is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/area-alerts.

For the 2016 season, a record 84 percent of deer tag holders complied with California’s new mandatory deer tag reporting requirement. CDFW thanks all those who reported and hopes for increased participation following the 2017 season. The reports are vital to estimating populations and setting tag quotas for the coming hunting season. Tags can be reported online at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales/CustomerSearch/Begin. Tag holders may also submit reports by mail to CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002.

California is phasing-in the use of nonlead ammunition for hunting. Lead ammunition is permitted for hunting deer in California in 2017 outside of the California condor range, state wildlife areas or ecological reserves where nonlead ammunition is required. Learn more about California’s phase-in of nonlead ammunition for hunting at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Nonlead-Ammunition.

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

 

CDFW photo by Stuart Itoga