Category Archives: Enforcement

State, Federal and French Wildlife Officers Work Together to Stop Illegal Import

A San Jose woman has been served with a fine, community service and probation for possession of several taxidermied protected wildlife specimens and attempting to import a taxidermied protected owl from France.

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Dora Martha Jimenez Zepeda, 42, of San Jose pled no contest to one count of violating Fish and Game Code, section 3503.5, unlawful possession of birds of prey, and forfeited several other taxidermied animals that are illegal to possess in California. The plea disposition also resulted in a $3,600 fine to be paid into the Santa Clara County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, 300 hours of community service and three years of probation.

“This is one of the most unusual cases we have seen in a while,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Assistant Chief Bob Farrell. “The international trafficking of protected species usually falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but since some of these animals were also protected under state law, it was a particularly complicated case. We appreciate the collaboration with our French and federal counterparts, as well as the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office, to bring this investigation to a close.”

In June 2014, CDFW law enforcement officers received a call through the CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) line from a wildlife officer at the National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (the French National Hunting and Wildlife Office). The French officer had been investigating the unlawful sale of a barn owl (tyto alba) to a California buyer through eBay’s French website. The barn owl is a protected species in France.

After several months of investigation, CDFW wildlife officers, along with officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), located the suspect at her residence in San Jose.  Inside the one-bedroom apartment, officers found more than 50 stuffed and mounted animals, including a full-bodied African lion. Officers seized three species of hawk, two Western screech owls, one long-eared owl, two barn owls, one egret and one sea turtle, all prohibited species to possess.  She was allowed to keep the other mounts not prohibited by state or federal law.

The suspect stated she purchased most of her taxidermy from eBay and denied having killed any of the wildlife herself.

Nongame migratory birds such as birds of prey are protected under both California law and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Sea turtles are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act and internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CalTIP is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, please call 1-888-334-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tipsters can also text anonymous information, including photographs, to the CalTIP program via “tip411” (numerically, 847411). Wildlife officers can respond directly, resulting in an anonymous two-way conversation.

Media Contacts:
Capt. Don Kelly, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (831) 229-0903
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

owl

Euthanasia Drugs Reach the Wrong Animals

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed that several turkey vultures have been poisoned from the veterinary euthanasia drug pentobarbital in Marin County.

Six turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) were brought to the WildCare Wildlife Hospital in San Rafael between July and October 2014. All the birds were comatose and barely breathing, presenting a medical mystery to the wildlife hospital staff.

With immediate and intensive medical intervention all of the birds recovered, and digestive samples were sent to a laboratory to determine what made them sick. CDFW confirmed pentobarbital exposure in all birds tested, but the source of the exposure remains unknown.

Pentobarbital is a drug used by veterinarians to euthanize companion animals, livestock and horses. If the remains of animals euthanized with pentobarbital are not properly disposed of after death, scavenging wildlife – such as turkey vultures and eagles – can be poisoned. Veterinarians and animal owners are responsible for disposing of animal remains properly by legal methods such as cremation or deep burial.

Turkey vultures are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and California Fish and Game Code. Improperly disposed-of euthanized remains are a danger to all scavenging wildlife.

Members of the veterinary and livestock communities are asked to share this information with colleagues in an effort to prevent further incidents.

WildCare also asks the public to pay attention to grounded turkey vultures and other raptors and scavengers.

Pentobarbital-poisoned birds appear to be dead. They have no reflex response and breathing can barely be detected. The birds appear intact, without wounds or obvious trauma. Anyone finding a comatose vulture should call WildCare’s 24-hour Hotline at (415) 456-SAVE (7283) immediately.

Read more about one pentobarbital-poisoned turkey vulture patient and the astonishing medical intervention required to save its life at http://www.wildcarebayarea.org/vulture. WildCare also has numerous photos and videos of the animals in care, as well as release footage.

Media Contacts:
Alison Hermance, WildCare, (415) 453-1000, ext. 24, alisonhermance@wildcarebayarea.org
Stella McMillin, CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab, (916) 358-2954
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

CalTIP Pilot Program to Take Poaching and Pollution Tips Via Text Message and a New App

Media Contacts:
Lt. Mike Milotz, CDFW Law Enforcement and CalTIP Program, (916) 654-1485
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has launched a pilot program that makes it easier for the public to report wildlife and pollution crimes with their cell phones.

Buckler 2007

Tipsters can now text anonymous information, including photographs, to the Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) program via “tip411” (numerically, 847411). Wildlife officers can respond directly, resulting in an anonymous two-way conversation.

Users must start the text message with the word “Caltip”.

Phone number line, type: 847411

Message line, type: Caltip (followed by the message/tip)

deadeagle

In conjunction with tip411 (847411), CDFW  is launching a CalTIP smartphone application which similarly enables the public to share an anonymous tip and/or photograph with wildlife officers and lets the officers converse anonymously with the tipster. The CalTIP App can be downloaded for free via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Standard message and data rates may apply.

Anonymous tips can also be submitted right from CDFW’s website at www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.aspx.

Both the CALTIP App and tip411 are completely anonymous, as the technology removes all identifying information before wildlife officers see the tips.

“We believe the public is our greatest law enforcement resource,” said CDFW Lt. Michael Milotz, CalTIP coordinator. “Tip411 and the CalTIP App will give us another tool to combat pollution and the unlawful take and commercialization of California’s wildlife.”

During the two-month pilot period, CDFW will collect usage data to help determine whether tip411 and the CalTIP App will be permanently added to the CalTIP program.

CalTIP is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. The program is funded by penalty assessments generated by fines from wildlife violators and polluters. The existing CalTIP confidential secret witness phone number, 1-888-334-2258, will remain operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Wildlife officers encourage anyone who witnesses a poaching or polluting violation, or who has information about a violation, to report it using any means available.

CDFW to Showcase Programs, Sell Licenses and Offer Education for Kids at Upcoming ISE Show in Sacramento

If you’re heading to the International Sportsmen’s Expo at the Cal Expo State Fairgrounds this coming weekend (Jan. 8-11), be sure to stop by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) booth, space 3700 in the Pavilion Building. Wardens, biologists, license agents and many other CDFW staff will be on hand throughout the event to address questions and provide information. Many items will also be available for purchase, including fishing and hunting licenses, warden stamps, permits and tags.

License sales at Sacramento ISE

For the second year, CDFW’s top leadership will participate in a panel discussion about topics of interest to California hunters and anglers. The discussion will be held Saturday, Jan. 10 from 1-2 p.m. in the California Sportsmen’s Theater in the Pavilion Building. This will be an open forum where members of the audience may ask questions of the panel.

“As public servants, it is part of our job to remain open and available for input on issues, including contentious ones,” said Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW’s Director. “It is particularly important that we listen to input from our traditional hunting and fishing constituents. This show gives us an opportunity to do just that.”

CDFW will also have other displays throughout the fairgrounds, including the Heritage Wild Trout booth, space 2218 in the Fly Fishing Building, and an invasive species booth, space 3244 in the Pavilion Building. Game warden recruitment is always a large component of CDFW’s participation in the show. Again this year, a game warden trailer with a free laser shot game will be on display outside of the Pavilion Building, and wildlife officers will be available to answer questions about employment with CDFW.

Other CDFW-sponsored highlights at the ISE include:

  • Youth fishing – Bring your child to the Youth Fair Expo Center to fish for beautiful rainbow trout. Each person who does so will go home with an official California Fishing Passport book, an official stamp and a fish identification book containing pictures and information about 150 different species of California fish!
  • Learn How to be “Bear Aware” – CDFW staff will demonstrate how to keep a campsite safe from unwanted ursine visitors.
  • 2015 Warden Stamps – At the main booth, CDFW will be offering and promoting this year’s stamp, which features a black bear. Stamps sell for $5. Proceeds support game wardens and K-9 units and help fund the purchase of necessary law enforcement equipment.
  • Outdoor California – Free copies of CDFW’s award-winning magazine will be available (as supplies last) at the main booth. Yearly subscriptions may be purchased for $15.
  • New This Year … CDFW’s First Trout Planting Truck – This beautiful 1925 Dodge truck was the first used for planting trout. The fish were transported in big milk cans. It has been completely refurbished and will be on display for the first time at this Sacramento show, near the Youth Fair Expo Center. It still runs and it looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor.

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 $15 for adults (door sales are cash only, although tickets may be purchased in advance online). Youth under age 16 are free. There is a $10 charge to park on the grounds.

For additional information, schedules and to purchase tickets, please visit the ISE webpage at www.sportsexpos.com/attend/2015/sacramento.

Amador County Man Sentenced for Poaching

Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692
Amador County Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Mello, (209) 223-6444

A Plymouth man was convicted in Amador Superior Court of multiple deer poaching charges.

Gary Michael Creason Jr., age 24, was fined $19,520 for activities involving the take of trophy deer out of season, among other charges. Trophy bucks are described as male deer with very large antlers.

Acting on a tip, wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) contacted Creason at his home in July 2013, where they found him in possession of several sets of trophy deer antlers and deer meat. Creason admitted to taking deer out of season, using another person’s tag and admitted to pursuing trophy bucks outside the hunting season. In 2012, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1162 (Chesbro) that increased the penalties associated with killing trophy game animals out of season.

“Poaching deer during the mating season when hunting season is closed is a common tactic of poachers,” said CDFW Lt. Stacey LaFave, supervisor for Alpine, Amador and El Dorado counties. “Bucks have a reduced awareness of their surroundings and become very susceptible to this type of illegal activity.”

The $19,520 fine was on top of three years of probation, loss of all hunting privileges during that timeframe and forfeiture of all wildlife evidence seized.

AB 1162 established a criminal penalty for any person who knowingly and illegally takes a trophy deer outside the legal hunting season. The penalty for such offense shall be not less than $5,000 nor more than $40,000 or up to one year in county jail, or both the fine and imprisonment. The bill was sponsored by an organization of hunters to deter poachers from illegally targeting very large game animals.

Equine Partners Saddle Up to Help Protect California’s Natural Resources

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Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are turning to an age-old enforcement tool – the horse – to help protect California’s natural resources.

While there is no formal mounted patrol unit, some wildlife officers are using their own personal horses for routine patrol in the back country. Much like canine partners, horses can see, hear and go places faster and quieter than modern technology. Covering up to 20 miles a day, equine patrols can show up where you least expect them, even in the most adverse conditions.

“As a 25-year law enforcement professional, I have used a variety of tools in my career and my six-year old mustang is by far, one of the most practical resources at my disposal,” said CDFW Wildlife Officer Jerry Karnow. “I can cover many miles a day in locations not accessible by any vehicle, which includes a huge portion of California’s outback. As a mounted unit, I have confiscated illegal firearms, helped hikers find their way, put out illegal campfires and made arrests in crimes that would otherwise go unnoticed.”

Karnow’s equine partner, Modoc, is a former wild mustang from Lassen County who was rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management. At two years of age, Modoc entered the wild horse program at a correctional facility in Carson City. Mustangs in the program are tamed, socialized and ridden for the first time by inmates. Wild horses have a keen sense of awareness from living as a prey species, which is needed for their survival from day one. They can hear, see and sense activity at a longer distance well before a human ear or eye can detect it, making them solid enforcement partners.

“Protecting California’s precious natural resources all comes down to boots on the ground, which includes covering large areas of rough terrain,” said CDFW Wildlife Officer Gary Densford. “Utilizing horses makes perfect sense for the duties and work of a wildlife officer in the back country.”

All horses used for patrol must be sound, reliable and in good working condition. Each horse and rider is observed yearly to ensure the equine under saddle is sound and trail ready. All horse units are maintained in a healthy, groomed condition and shall not be ridden on patrol without appropriate hoof care.

CDFW is currently utilizing a handful of units with more interest on the rise.

Inyo County Man Arrested, Charged with Poaching Deer

Media Contacts:
Lt. Bill Dailey, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (661) 203-6380
Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095

dog
Tracking dog Sieger helped wildlife officers locate a poached trophy deer.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers arrested a poacher today in Inyo County for allegedly illegally killing a trophy 3×3 deer in the G-3 zone. Joseph Eugene Bragdon, 37, of Bishop was taken into custody without incident at his workplace after a $15,000 arrest warrant was issued by the Inyo County District Attorney’s Office.

“We are grateful to the Inyo County DA’s Office for recognizing the importance of resource protection and that wildlife poaching is a serious crime,” said Lt. Bill Dailey of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “Ethical hunters prize the G-3 tag for the incredible landscape and quantity of large deer. With only 35 tags issued every year, hunters can apply for years and never draw this zone.”

CDFW wildlife officers received a tip, through the CalTIP hotline, that on Nov. 1 Bragdon took his juvenile son to Division Creek in the trophy G-3 hunting zone and killed a large mule deer buck using a D-7 deer zone tag. With the assistance of the investigating warden’s tracking dog, Sieger, they located a dead deer with only the antlers and part of the edible meat removed. Most of the animal was left to waste.

Poaching a deer, cutting the head off and wasting edible meat is illegal and an egregious violation of ethical hunting standards. Wildlife officers took DNA samples and seized ballistic evidence.

The G-3 deer season runs only from Dec. 6-21. This area is considered a trophy deer hunt when high country mule deer bucks enter the area to escape the high country winter storms.

In November 2012, Bragdon was convicted of two misdemeanor hunting violations in Nevada, including hunting big game in a closed season and hunting big game without a tag. He was fined and had demerit points added to his Nevada hunting license.

Bragdon faces possible charges for several violations of the Fish and Game Code, including taking a deer without a license, tag or permit, failure to fill out tags, waste of game, failure to have a tag in possession and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. If convicted, Bragdon could face revocation of his hunting license, fines, probation and/or jail time.

CalTIP (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. Ethical hunters and anglers are the most common contributors to the CalTIP hotline. The toll-free hotline number is (888) 334-2258.

Tracking dog Sieger is a candidate for the next cycle of certification training for CDFW’s exceptional team of Warden K-9s.

Youth Essay Contest Promotes Heritage and Hunting Ethics

Media Contacts:
Lt. John Nores, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (408) 591-5174
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and California Wildlife Officer Foundation are again co-sponsoring the annual “Passing on the Tradition” essay contest for young hunters.

“Passing on the tradition of sportsmanship and ethical behavior is a vital part of our hunter education program,” said CDFW Hunter Education Program Administrator Capt. Roy Griffith. “The California Wildlife Officer Foundation wanted to recognize one of the 21,000 students who pass through our program each year with a lifetime California hunting license, valued at more than $600.”

Junior hunting license holders or youths under 16 who earned a hunter education certificate in 2014 are eligible. Contestants need to submit an essay, 500 words or less, on what “Passing on the Tradition” of hunting means to them. Applicants are encouraged to write about conservation, sportsmanship, ethics and the challenge of being a hunter in modern times.

Entries must include the applicant’s name, date of birth and a contact telephone number. Entries should be submitted via email to Lt. John Nores at john.nores@wildlife.ca.gov. All entries must be received on or before Friday, Dec. 19, 2014.

Essays will be reviewed and scored by CDFW Wildlife Officers and other CDFW representatives. The winner will be notified by phone.
For additional information, please contact Lt. John Nores at (408) 591-5174.

AWARD CEREMONY: The grand prize will be awarded during a special ceremony at the International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) show in Sacramento on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. The contest winner must be present with a parent or guardian.

To find information on becoming a Hunter Education Instructor to help “Pass on the Tradition,” please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered.

Final Poacher Sentenced from 2013 Abalone Sting Operation

After almost a year of court procedures, the last of 18 abalone poachers arrested in a 2013 sting has been sentenced. All 18 suspects were found guilty or pled no contest to the charges.

On Aug. 29, 2013, California wildlife officers simultaneously served 13 search/arrest warrants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento on 18 suspected abalone poachers. The last of the 18, Dung Tri Bui of San Leandro, was recently found guilty in Mendocino County Superior Court after a week long jury trial. Bui was convicted of three misdemeanor counts, including take of abalone for commercial use, conspiracy to take abalone for commercial purposes and take of abalone greater than the daily limit. He was sentenced to 36 months summary probation, $15,000 fine and a lifetime ban on fishing (including the take of abalone). Deputy District Attorney (DDA) Daniel Madow presented the case.

In total, $139,883 in fines and 11 fishing license revocations were handed out to the 18 subjects. All of the subjects received summary probation ranging from one to three years. All seized dive gear was ordered forfeited by the court. Mendocino DDAs Heidi Larson and Tim Stoen and support staff also spent a tremendous amount of time on these cases along with numerous staff from the Sacramento District Attorney’s office.

“We had excellent support from the respective District Attorney’s offices for taking these crimes seriously and prosecuting the poachers to the full extent of the law,” said Asst. Chief Brian Naslund of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division. “The gear forfeiture, fines and lifetime fishing license revocations for California’s worst poaching offenders will hopefully put them out of the poaching business permanently.”

Poachers Charges Revoked Fine Probation
SF Bay Area
Khoa Dang Nguyen 5521.5 Life fish/hunt $15,000 36 months
Chinh Quan Le 5521.5 Life fish/hunt $15,000 36 months
Hung Vo 5521.5 Lifetime fishing $15,000 24 months
Toi Van Nguyen 5521.5 Life fish/hunt $15,000 24 months
Dung Tri Bui 5521.5, PC 182, 29.15[c] Lifetime fishing $15,000 36 months
Hai Van Ha 5521.5, PC 182, Lifetime abalone $1,353.50 24 months
Duoc Van Nguyen 5521.5, PC 182 Lifetime abalone $1,353.50 24 months
Andy Phan 2000/29.15 [c] Lifetime abalone $1,537 24 months
Charlie Le PC 182 No $1,420 24 months
Nhan Trung Le PC 182, 2000/29.15[c] No $1,888 24 months
Suong Hung Tran 29.15[c] No $1,771 24 months
Chuyen Van Bui 1052[f] No $1,303 24 months
Diep van Nguyen 2000/29.15[c] No $1,537 12 months
Khoa Ngoc Nguyen 29.16[b] No $1,420 12 months
Sacramento
Dung Van Nguyen 5521.5, PC 115 (a) (F) Lifetime fishing $15,000 32 mo State prison
Tho Thanh Phan 5521.5 Lifetime fishing $15,000 24 months
Hiep Ho 5521.5 Lifetime fishing $20,000 26 months
Hung Van Le 2000, 29.16(a) No $1,303 24 months

PC 115 Forgery of government documents
PC 182 Conspiracy to commit a crime
F&G Code 5521.5 Unlawful to take abalone for commercial purposes
F&G Code 2000 Unlawful possession of California’s fish and wildlife
F&G Code 1052 Unlawful use of another’s hunting/fishing license
Title 14 – 29.15 abalone overlimit
Title 14 – 29.16 abalone report card violations

The original press release announcing the bust can be found at
https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/cdfw-officers-arrest-13-poaching-suspects-in-oakland-and-sacramento/.

The case was investigated by the CDFW Special Operations Unit, a specialized team of wildlife officers tasked with investigating illegal black market sales of California’s fish and wildlife resources.

Media Contact:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Checkpoint Planned to Help Stop Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and Quagga and Zebra Mussels

Contacts:
Kyle Chang, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (951) 897-6193
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens will check vehicles and boats in San Bernardino County to prevent the introduction and spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and quagga and zebra mussels. The checkpoint will be conducted at Yermo Border Station on Monday, Oct. 20 and Tuesday, Oct. 21.

CWD is a neurologic disease that is fatal to deer, elk and moose. California hunting regulations specifically prohibit importing brain or spinal cord tissue from deer and elk harvested outside of California to minimize the risk of introducing CWD into the state. Out-of-state big game hunters should review CDFW’s hunting regulations regarding interstate transport of deer and elk before bringing game meat across state lines. www.fgc.ca.gov/public/notices/declaration.aspx. CWD has been detected in free-ranging cervids in 19 states and two Canadian provinces.

Quagga and zebra mussels, non-native freshwater mussels native to Eurasia, multiply quickly and encrust watercraft and infrastructure, and compete for food with native fish species. These mussels can be spread from one body of water to another by nearly anything that has been in infested waters by getting entrapped in boat engines, bilges, live-wells and buckets.

Quagga mussels were first detected in the Colorado River system in January 2007 and were later found in San Diego and Riverside counties. They are now known to be in 29 waters in California, all in Southern California. Zebra mussels were discovered in San Justo Reservoir in San Benito County in January 2008.

For more information on CWD, please visit the CDFW website at  www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/disease/cwd/. For more information on quagga and zebra mussels, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives/quaggamussel/.