Category Archives: Enforcement

Lassen County Raptor Poacher Convicted

The largest raptor poaching case in known California history has ended in a conviction in Lassen County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced.

Richard Parker, 68, of Standish pled guilty to crimes associated with poaching in excess of 150 raptors and other wildlife on his rural Lassen County property. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and given a $75,000 fine and five years of probation. Probation terms include full search authority, prohibitions on possessing firearms, hunting and fishing, and a requirement to obey all laws. The two firearms used during the commission of the crimes were ordered destroyed by the court.

wildlife officers conducting investigation.JPG

In March 2018, wildlife officers assigned to Lassen County received an anonymous tip from someone who reportedly witnessed a man killing a hawk near the town of Standish. The wildlife officer conducted covert surveillance of the suspect, then visited the private property and discovered nine dead raptors. The entire local Lassen/Plumas County Wildlife Officer squad later returned to the property with a search warrant. A search of the home and 80-acre property turned up more than 150 carcasses of protected birds and other wildlife in various states of decay, along with spent rifle casings. Most of the birds were red-tailed hawks, but several other species of hawks, other nongame birds and an owl were found. Four of the birds were migratory ferruginous hawks, which are uncommon in the area. Officers also located two dead bobcats and one taxidermied mountain lion, all of which were suspected to be unlawfully taken.

A CDFW wildlife veterinarian and avian specialist analyzed the first nine carcasses collected. However, investigators sent the majority of the carcasses to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., where wildlife forensic scientists meticulously necropsied 159 samples to determine cause of death. The 400-page necropsy report significantly contributed to the Deputy Attorney General’s ability to effectively prosecute the case.

Dead birds at bottom of roost

 

“We are pleased to work with the California Attorney General’s Office, as well as CDFW’s Office of General Counsel, to put this egregious poacher out of business,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The case came together as a result of collaboration of our local wildlife officers and laboratory and wildlife biology staff from the state and federal governments.”

“Poaching is not a game, it’s a serious crime,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Richard Parker willfully and egregiously disregarded California law to kill protected wildlife, including hawks. To anyone who breaks our laws for illegal sport, know that we will prosecute and hold you accountable.”

CDFW also expresses appreciation to Lassen County District Attorney Melyssah Rios for her contribution to the monumental effort put forth to bring this case to closure.

The case developed from a tip originating with a member of the public who saw something amiss. Anyone who believes they are witness to unlawful poaching or pollution activity is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text with the tip411 app. Both methods allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist with investigations. Callers may remain anonymous, if desired, and a reward can result from successful capture and prosecution.

Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095
Lt. Kyle Kroll, CDFW Law Enforcement, (530) 575-5736

 

Woman Sentenced For Environmental Crimes in Lake County

Dead Birds and Banned Pesticide Found At Unlicensed Marijuana Grow

On March 11, Elizabeth Garcia, 33, of Fairfield was sentenced to three misdemeanor violations relating to the use of a banned pesticide at a Lower Lake black market marijuana grow.

Garcia was placed on three years probation, ordered to pay fines and fees of $22,700 and complete 240 hours of community service. In addition, she has prohibitions related to cannabis possession and cultivation.Lake County woman

The violations stem from a Sept. 2018 investigation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for black market sales and environmental crimes. The illegal grow contained 850 plants and was not permitted by the county or licensed by the state.

“The conviction of this case was a result of a team effort with CDFW scientists and enforcement, SWRCB, U.C. Davis Veterinary Medicine and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation,” said Susan J. Krones, Lake County District Attorney. “The abundance of natural resources in our county should be respected and treated with care. This conviction demonstrates that noncompliance with state environmental laws will not be tolerated.”

While serving a search warrant, wildlife officers observed the presence of a suspected illegal substance and a dead bird, identified as a hermit thrush, found within the cultivation site and another bird carcass nearby.  Plant samples and the deceased bird were tested and both returned positive for carbofuran.

“Black market marijuana operations can be very harmful to the environment,” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. “Grows of this nature are a public safety threat and keep the legal cannabis market from reaching its full potential.”

Carbofuran has been banned in the United States since 2009. A single aspirin-sized tablet of carbofuran is toxic enough to kill 20,000 small birds and just a teaspoon can kill a 300-lb. black bear.

CDFW encourages cannabis operators to obtain state licenses and local authorization for commercial cultivation. Learn more at wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis.

CDFW would like to remind the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution, illegal water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and the desired message, to 847411 (tip411).

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

 

Wildlife Officers Seize Firearms and More at Black Market Marijuana Operation in Hayfork

Last month, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), assisted by the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department, served a search warrant at a private parcel in the Hayfork area of Trinity County. 

The warrant was based on evidence of black market marijuana sales, environmental crimes and other criminal activity. CDFW also verified that the private property and parties involved were not licensed by the state to commercially grow and/or produce cannabis products.

Officers seized five firearms, 455 pounds of processed marijuana, 1,540 grams of Butane Honey Oil (BHO) and equipment for a BHO lab. Along with this, wildlife officers found evidence of black market marijuana being shipped across state lines.

“There is no doubt that black market marijuana operations prevent California’s legal cannabis market from thriving and encourage other criminal behavior,” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. “Shutting down an operation of this nature is one of the many tasks that wildlife officers encounter when protecting California’s natural resources.”

The Trinity County District Attorney’s office is reviewing five felony charges against the two suspects.

CDFW reminds cannabis cultivators to obtain state licenses and local authorization for commercial cultivation. Following these recommended actions can help cultivators avoid common pitfalls that may lead to enforcement actions. Learn more at wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis.

CDFW would like to remind the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and whatever the desired message, to 847411 (tip411).

Media Contact: Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

 

Conviction in Great White Shark Shooting

A San Jose man was recently convicted in Santa Cruz Superior Court for unlawfully killing a Great White Shark (also known as a White Shark) in Santa Cruz County last summer.

Vinh Pham, 41, was fined $5,000 and placed on conditional probation for two years. The court also ordered his firearm to be destroyed.

Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) began their investigation on June 17, 2018, immediately after the nine-foot male White Shark washed up on Beer Can Beach in Aptos. A necropsy (animal autopsy) performed on the shark confirmed that it had been killed by multiple shots from a .22 caliber firearm. Soon after, CDFW received a tip on its CalTIP reporting line that a member of a commercial fishing boat crew may have been responsible for the shark’s death.

Officers investigated the tip that night and observed the vessel fishing after dark near where the shark was discovered. Two wildlife officers contacted the crew as the vessel returned to Santa Cruz Harbor early the next morning. A regular commercial fishing inspection uncovered multiple violations involving their catch for that day, including possession of undersize halibut, no landing receipts, failure to weigh their commercial catch and failure to turn in landing receipts. During this investigation, the officers located a fully loaded .22 caliber rifle concealed behind the seat of the truck the suspect was using to transport his commercial catch to markets. Officers seized the rifle as evidence, then submitted both the rifle and the .22 bullets extracted during the shark necropsy to the California Department of Justice crime lab to see if they matched.

As the investigation progressed, Pham confessed, claiming he shot the shark after seeing it swimming near the wings of his deployed fishing net. On Jan. 14, 2019, Pham pled to multiple charges including wanton waste of the White Shark, possessing a loaded rifle in his vehicle, possessing undersize halibut, failing to accurately weigh his catch, failing to complete landing receipts and failing to submit landing receipts.

CDFW thanks Assistant District Attorney Ed Browne of the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office for prosecuting the case.

If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, immediately dial the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tips may also be submitted to CDFW using tip411, an internet-based tool that enables wildlife officers respond directly to the reporting party, initiating a two-way conversation. Tipsters may remain anonymous if they choose. Tips can be sent to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Todd Tognazzini, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (805) 610-3916
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

CDFW to Sell Hunting and Fishing Licenses, Answer Questions from the Public and More at Annual Sportsmen’s Show

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is returning to the International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) at Cal Expo in Sacramento Jan. 17-20. This is the largest hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation show of its kind in northern California.

Wildlife officers, fisheries and wildlife scientists, hunter education instructors, license agents and other CDFW staff will be available during the show to answer questions and provide information regarding fishing and hunting opportunities throughout the state. CDFW’s license sales booth will be located in the Pavilion Building (adjoining spaces 3700 and 3822) and licenses, tags, report cards and warden stamps will be available for purchase. Customers may pay by credit card or check.

For the sixth year, CDFW’s top leadership – including Fisheries and Wildlife Division Deputy Director Stafford Lehr, Fisheries Branch Chief Kevin Shaffer, Wildlife Branch Chief Kari Lewis and Deputy Director/Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess – will hold a panel discussion about topics of interest to California’s hunters and anglers. The open-forum panel will be held at noon on Saturday, Jan. 19 in the California Sportsmen’s Theater in the Pavilion Building. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions of the panel. Immediately following will be the Youth Essay Contest award presentation (see below for additional information).

“We look forward to speaking directly to our constituents about department operations as we have for the past five years,” said Bess. “We welcome direct conversation both at the panel discussion and with our many staff at our other booths in the venue.”

Additional CDFW booths and highlights include:

  • Hunter Education Program — Located in the Youth Fair Expo Center, wildlife officers and hunter education instructors will be available to answer questions and provide information about basic, advanced and bowhunter education. Interactive training materials, including a free laser-shot hunting simulator, will also be available.
  • K-9 Teams — CDFW K-9 wardens and their wildlife officer handlers will be available for questions and interactions. Look for them at CDFW booths.
  • Wildlife Officer Recruitment — CDFW’s Law Enforcement trailer will be on display outside of the Pavilion Building, featuring a display of taxidermy and a free enclosed laser-shot hunting simulator. Wildlife officers will be on hand to answer questions about employment opportunities.
  • CDFW Youth Fair Exhibit — Explore the salmon life cycle and try your luck on the Salmon Survival Spin. Play a round of salmon bingo, learn to cast or view the new Mobile Fish Exhibit.
  • Keep Me Wild Booth — Information about black bears will be available at the Youth Fair. Youths can make a bear track and help a black bear find the way to its cave. CDFW also has information about how to vacation safely in bear country.
  • 2019 Warden Stamps — At the main booth, CDFW will be offering and promoting this year’s stamp. Proceeds from the $5 stamp support wildlife officers and K-9 teams, and help fund the purchase of necessary law enforcement equipment.
  • Online Harvest Reporting — Tag holders can view their online profile and complete all tags that require reporting. The tag holder will receive a report confirmation number that should be written in the space provided on the report card. The harvest report card will not have to be mailed in physically. CDFW encourages all tag holders to use this online service to meet their harvest reporting requirements.
  • Outdoor California — Free copies of CDFW’s award-winning magazine will be available (as supplies last) at the main booth.
  • Youth Essay Contest — CDFW and the California Wildlife Officer Foundation will be awarding this year’s contest winner, 16-year-old Noah Lo of Stockton, a lifetime hunting license for his outstanding essay emphasizing the theme, “The Positive Impact of Hunting on Your Life.” Lo and the second- and third-place contest winners will be honored on Saturday, Jan. 19 at approximately 12:45 p.m. at the California Sportsmen’s Theater in the Pavilion Building. Stop by to congratulate them and get information on how to become the next youth contest winner.

The Cal Expo State Fairgrounds are located at 1600 Exposition Blvd. in Sacramento. ISE show hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $16 for adults (tickets may be purchased in advance online). Youths age 15 and under are free. There is a $10 charge to park on the grounds.

For additional information and schedules, and to purchase tickets, please visit www.sportsexpos.com/attend/sacramento.

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Media Contacts:
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692