Category Archives: Enforcement

California Wildlife Officers Receive State’s Highest Honor, Medal of Valor

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers Ryan Stephenson and Timothy Little received awards today at the 2016 Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award Ceremony in Sacramento. The awards acknowledge state employees for acts of heroism and bravery. Officer Stephenson and Little will both receive the Gold Medal for their “Special Acts” defined by the program as, “an extraordinary act of heroism by a state employee extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service performed at great risk to his/her own life in an effort to save human life.”

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Wildlife Officer Ryan Stephenson:

On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Stephenson was patrolling Lake County when the Valley Fire ignited. The fire had just consumed the small town of Cobb and was now headed toward Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake.

Stephenson raced ahead of the inferno to warn people about the fire and help them evacuate so they wouldn’t be trapped by the flames. Working door to door, he had evacuated several homes and escorted eight people to safety when one of the residents realized their neighbor had been overlooked. The neighbor, an 88-year-old wheelchair bound woman, was still in her home, lying on the couch, unaware of the approaching fire. Officer Stephenson quickly returned to her street, which was now engulfed in flames, identified the woman’s house, entered, and found her asleep on her couch. She was unable to get out on her own, so Officer Stephenson carried her in his arms to his patrol truck. As he was getting ready to leave, the woman told him she was worried about her dog. Officer Stephenson then went back into her home and returned to the truck with her dog, driving them all to safety just minutes before her home became engulfed in flames. The fire subsequently destroyed the woman’s home.

Stephenson’s heroic act saved the life of an elderly woman and her dog.

Wildlife Officer Timothy Little:

On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Little was working as a safety patrol in the town of Cobb as he and other first responders scrambled to evacuate or assist residents during the Valley Fire.

As the fire began to consume the small town of Cobb, an emergency call went out about an elderly woman trapped in her home and in need of immediate rescue. Hearing radio calls from other rescue personnel saying they were unable to respond because of fire and debris in the roadway, Little immediately headed toward the woman’s home. Driving his patrol vehicle through raging flames and burning road hazards, Little found the house and entered the home where he found an elderly woman trapped with her 11-month old granddaughter. Little rescued both the woman and child, getting them out of their home safely just minutes before fire incinerated her home.

Shortly afterward, Little learned that another elderly woman was trapped in her house and needed serious medical attention. He also learned that no medical transport crews would be able to make it there in time. He raced to provide aid. After locating the house, he found the woman trapped on the second floor, unable to walk. Little carried her down a flight of stairs to a waiting vehicle and escorted them to the hospital. Little then continued to assist in other searches.

Little’s heroic acts saved the lives of two women and one infant.

“Our more than 400 wildlife officers understand and accept their roles as peace officers, caretakers, guardians and public servants,” said CDFW Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “They are well trained and prepared to not only deal with wildlife law enforcement, but general peace officer work and first responder duties. The brave and selfless acts by these officers exemplify the outstanding force of CDFW wildlife officers.”

Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

CDFW Seeking Tips After Finding Desert Bighorn Skull

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers are looking for any information the public may have regarding an abandoned skull of a mature male desert bighorn sheep found last May in Alameda County.

The skull was found near Newpark Mall in Newark, in an area with very limited pedestrian traffic. It was in good condition with some flesh and hair still attached to the skull, and it appeared as though someone attempted to conceal it. Desert bighorn sheep are native to California, but are found primarily in the southeastern mountainous areas. They do not naturally occur anywhere near the area where the skull was found.

Lawful hunting of bighorn sheep occurs annually in California, but is heavily regulated with very limited opportunities. In 2015, only 11 bighorn sheep hunting tags were issued by CDFW. Wildlife officers are confident the skull was not legally harvested.

Anyone with information about the skull is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text to tip411. Both options allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist in this investigation.

For more information on the CalTIP program or to download the CalTIP app, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.

Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (530) 523-6720
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Public Meeting to be Held on Proposed Closure of Part of Sacramento River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a public meeting to solicit comments on a proposed emergency fishing closure of 5.5 miles of the Sacramento River above the Highway 44 Bridge in Redding to the Keswick Dam. CDFW has determined this closure is necessary to protect endangered winter-run Chinook salmon. The anticipated dates of closure are April 1 through July 31.

The meeting will be held Friday, Jan. 29, from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Redding Public Library, 1100 Parkview Ave., Redding (96001).

“Because of the drought, we had to close the river last year to save as many of these fish as possible,” said Lt. Richard Wharton, CDFW Law Enforcement supervisor in Redding. “The great news is we had widespread cooperation from Shasta County anglers, who clearly demonstrated they care about this dwindling species.”

CDFW is proposing a complete fishing closure in this critical holding and spawning area to ensure added protection for the federal and state endangered winter-run Chinook, which face high risk of extinction. Given the gravity of the current situation, it is imperative that each and every adult fish be given maximum protection. Current regulations do not allow fishing for Chinook, but incidental catch by anglers who are targeting trout could occur.

An additional measure taken was an agreement with the city of Redding to reduce the amount of artificial light from the Sundial Bridge during the critical stages of salmon migration. The bright lights were causing the fish to stop their journey at the bridge; by dimming the lights, city officials removed the deterrent while still sufficiently illuminating the bridge for tourists.

“We appreciate the city stepping up to help conservation efforts by lowering the lights on one of the city’s most popular attractions,” said Neil Manji, CDFW Northern Region Manager. “In our studies we found that once the light levels came down, the fish immediately swam under the bridge on their way to the sea.”

This reach is the principal winter-run Chinook spawning area during these extraordinary drought conditions. An estimated 98 percent of 2014 and 2015 in-river spawning occurred in the 5.5 mile stretch under consideration for closure. This section represents only 10 percent of the waters currently open to fishing upstream of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.

In 2014 and 2015, approximately 95 percent of eggs and young winter-run Chinook were lost due to elevated river temperatures. Given current drought conditions, it is likely the 2016-year eggs and young salmon will again be subject to extremely trying conditions.

CDFW is tasked by the Governor to work with the California Fish and Game Commission to determine whether fishing restrictions in certain areas are necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist. The proposed closure is also in accordance with the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.

 

CDFW Names Warden Frank Milazzo Wildlife Officer of the Year

Fish and Wildlife Officer Frank Milazzo, a 27-year veteran, was selected as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) 2016 Wildlife Officer of the Year. Milazzo recalls his first encounter with a game warden vividly at age 11, on one of many outdoor adventures with his grandparents. From that day, he developed a love and passion for California’s fish and wildlife and set a goal to become a game warden.

Milazzo attended California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, graduating with a degree in zoology. He attended the first Fish and Game Academy at Napa Valley College in 1989. Milazzo enjoyed a variety of patrol districts and assignments in his career, including the patrol boat Hammerhead in Long Beach; positions in the San Gabriel Valley, Santa Barbara County and his current position in Mariposa County, where he has served since 1999. Milazzo gained expertise handling a variety of wildlife-human conflicts including mountain lion and bear attack investigations. Milazzo is known as a thorough, tireless and detailed investigator and technical report writer. He has investigated hundreds of deer and bear poaching cases over the years using a variety of techniques from old-fashioned hard work and surveillance to use of the latest forensic techniques and applications. Over the past 16 years, Milazzo has worked closely with local law enforcement and the citizens of Mariposa County and built a solid reputation as a go-to resource for all fish and wildlife related issues.

Milazzo has developed a reputation for deep community involvement. In 2014, he was selected by Mariposa County Judge Dana Walton to serve on the Mariposa County Civil Grand Jury, where he served with distinction for a one-year term. Milazzo is a past member of the Mariposa County Resource Conservation District and was selected by the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors for a position on the Mariposa County Historical Sites and Records Preservation Commission.

Milazzo received the Director’s Achievement Award in 1993 for his outstanding accomplishments in support of CDFW’s wildlife and conservation goals. In 1997, he was nominated as the southern enforcement district’s officer of the year. In 2008, Milazzo was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor and received the Governor’s Gold Medal of Valor, the highest honor bestowed on a state employee, for his selfless acts of heroism in deterring and detaining an armed, suicidal and homicidal suspect.

“In light of Milazzo’s awarded and dedicated career, his diverse experience with the department and his extensive involvement with his community, he is an excellent choice for the CDFW 2016 Wildlife Officer of the Year,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Division Chief David Bess.

When Milazzo is not pursuing his warden endeavors and proudly serving the department, he enjoys spending time with his children sharing his inherited values of hunting, fishing and collecting historic fish and game memorabilia.

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Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

CDFW Cites Lobster Poachers in Southern California 

Media Contact: Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

Wildlife officers in Orange County conducted a successful four-day lobster poaching detail over a two weekend period.

Following the season opener in October, public complaints began pouring in to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) poaching hotline about undersized lobster taken from the San Clemente Pier and the Dana Point jetties. The information came from law-abiding lobster anglers who were witnessing the crimes and reporting them through the CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) program.

Meticulous planning and coordinated patrol efforts resulted in seventeen citations, with a total of 25 violations found. Charges included possession of undersized lobsters, lobster report card violations, possession of undersized kelp and barred sand bass, and failure to have a lobster measuring device in possession. If convicted, the individuals cited could face up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for each offense.

The wildlife officers successfully returned a total of 33 illegally harvested undersized lobsters, two kelp bass and three barred sand bass to the ocean.

“Protecting California’s natural resources requires dedication, passion and teamwork,” said CDFW Lieutenant Dave McNair. “Those anglers who came forward and provided information became an integral part of our team. This was a perfect example of how the CalTIP program works.”

CalTIP is a 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 tip411, which allows the public to text message an anonymous tip to wildlife officers and lets the officers respond back creating an anonymous two-way conversation. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411). There is also an app for smartphones that works similarly. For more information on the program and how to download the new CalTIP app, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.