Category Archives: Enforcement

Two CDFW Cold Case Poaching Investigations Gain New Interest with the Offer of Substantial Rewards

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers are looking for any information the public may have regarding two unsolved crimes: the unlawful killing of a male bighorn sheep in Siskiyou County, and the unlawful maiming of an adult male deer in Humboldt County.  

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The bighorn carcass was discovered near the Jenny Creek camping area and reported to CDFW by a citizen on June 12, 2016. The head and horns had been removed from the sheep and the remaining portion of the carcass was left along the side of Copco Road at Iron Gate Lake Road, just out of sight of passing vehicles. Officers are uncertain about the cause of death, but it is always unlawful to remove and possess parts of wildlife that were not legally harvested.

On July 29, 2016, CDFW responded to a citizen’s report of an injured deer near the 6400 block of Elk River Road in Eureka. Wildlife officers discovered the large deer had been shot through its back, which injured its spine and left it paralyzed. Due to the severity of the injuries and suffering, the deer had to be euthanized. Evidence indicated the deer was illegally shot with a high-power rifle, which was consistent with nearby residents’ reports of gunshots in the early morning hours that day.

Anyone with information about these incidents is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258; or send a text to tip411. Both methods allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist with these and other investigations. Callers may remain anonymous, if desired.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust learned of these cases from previous news articles and contacted CDFW to pledge a reward of up to $5,000 — in addition to a reward of up to $1,000 from the CalTIP program — for information that leads to arrest and conviction in either of these two cases.

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

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

Colusa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Named 2015 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year

The California Fish and Game Commission yesterday recognized Colusa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Beauchamp as the 2015 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year.

Beauchamp was selected from the ranks of California’s 58 counties to receive this notable distinction because of his unwavering commitment to protecting California’s natural resources. The award was presented last night amongst a congregation of Beauchamp’s peers at the California District Attorneys Association annual summer conference in San Diego.

“The Fish and Game Commission has a wide range of regulatory responsibilities related to protecting and conserving California’s fish, wildlife and the habitat they depend on for future generations,” said Commissioner Peter Silva, who presented the award. “State wildlife officers go to great lengths to build solid cases, but taking the steps to bring cases to convictions requires immeasurable dedication, exceptional knowledge of fish and game laws and superior skill in prosecuting crimes against wildlife, natural resources and the environment.”

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division, over the last few years Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Beauchamp has been instrumental in handling fish and game prosecutions for Colusa County. He is always available and approachable for questions and advice in case handling. He readily assists with, and reviews, search warrants for CDFW Wildlife Officers.

As a prosecutor, Beauchamp goes above and beyond to assure thorough case filings, which he handles with seriousness and diligence. Beauchamp pays special attention and gives focused interest in cases involving blatant and intentional poaching and steadfastly prosecutes those cases as felonies where applicable.

Beauchamp prosecuted several cases over the last few years involving Sacramento area poachers who traveled to Colusa County to poach deer and wild pigs. He also prosecuted a case dubbed “Operation High Hog” involving four subjects taking deer, elk and wild pigs to sell for personal profit. Beauchamp fought for unprecedented convictions and sentences, which resulted in multiple felony charges and prison sentences. These higher sentences resulted from a three-day felony jury trial that took extensive time and resources on behalf of Beauchamp and the Colusa County District Attorney’s office, but was done so without hesitation.

“It’s funny to be awarded for something that seems like part of my nature,” Beauchamp said. “As an outdoorsman, hunter and fisherman, I care deeply about conservation of the state’s public resources. I can’t thank the department and commission enough for the work they do to protect those resources. I am proud to continue working with them to support their important mission.”

At its meeting last week in Bakersfield, the Commission formalized the process of selecting a Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year, making it an annual award. In an effort to address wildlife crime and to recognize leaders in the District Attorneys’ offices throughout the state, the new policy states that the Commission will honor a courtroom champion who tirelessly prosecutes crimes against fish, wildlife, natural resources and the environment in California courts.

The award recognizes one attorney who exhibits one or more of the following:

  • exceptional skill and an outstanding commitment to protecting California’s fish, wildlife and natural resources;
  • superior performance in prosecuting crimes against wildlife, natural resources and the environment;
  • relentless pursuit of justice for the most egregious violators and keen ability to prosecute complex, controversial or landmark cases; or
  • exemplary work promoting and maintaining a collaborative working relationship with wildlife officers in pursuit of conserving our natural resources.

The selection process is based upon recommendations from the CDFW Law Enforcement Division, who regularly work with the various District Attorneys’ offices.

CDFW and the Commission recognize and appreciate the efforts of all 58 counties’ District Attorneys’ offices when it comes to protection of the environment, fish and wildlife. There are many prosecutors within those offices who take poaching crimes seriously. CDFW remains committed to working with each of those offices to provide as much information as needed to assist in bringing these crimes to convictions.

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Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

California Ivory Ban Now in Effect

Signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. last October, a new law banning the sale of nearly all ivory in the state of California is effective as of July 1, 2016. The ban, which can be found in California Fish and Game Code, section 2022, encompasses teeth and tusks of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, warthog, whale and narwhal, as well as rhinoceros horn, regardless of whether it is raw, worked or powdered, or from a store or a private collection. Under the law, advertising the sale of any items containing ivory is also strictly prohibited.

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) continues its active role with our federal partners to end wildlife trafficking, which poses a critical threat to conservation throughout the world,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “This law provides another tool to aid in this effort.”
Under the new law, raw ivory and most crafted items that include ivory may no longer be purchased, sold or possessed with the intent to sell, with limited exceptions, including the following:
  • Ivory or rhino horn that is part of a bona fide antique (with historical documentation showing the antique is at least 100 years old) provided the item is less than 5 percent ivory or rhino horn by volume;
  • Ivory or rhino horn that is part of a musical instrument (with documentation of pre-1975 construction) provided the instrument contains less than 20 percent ivory or rhino horn by volume; and
  • Activities expressly authorized by federal law, or federal exemptions or permits.
California has a long history in the legal and illegal trafficking market of ivory within the United States. Although the sale of ivory and elephant parts has been illegal in California since 1977, the new law closed a loophole that allowed the continued sale of ivory that was imported into the state before 1977.
The sale of ivory, rhino horn or products that contain ivory will be a misdemeanor, punishable by fines up to $50,000 and one year of incarceration.
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Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Nonlead Ammunition Implementation Phase 2 Starts July 1

Starting July 1, 2016, nonlead shot will be required when taking upland game birds with a shotgun in California, except for dove, quail, snipe, and any game birds taken at licensed game bird clubs. In addition, nonlead shot will be required when using a shotgun to take resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds and any wildlife for depredation purposes.

Existing restrictions on the use of lead ammunition in the California condor range, when taking Nelson bighorn sheep and when hunting on all California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wildlife areas and ecological reserves remain in effect.

The next phase of the implementation goes into effect July 1, 2019, when hunters must use nonlead ammunition when taking any animal anywhere in the state for any purpose. There are no restrictions on the use of lead ammunition for target shooting purposes.

Nonlead ammunition for some firearm calibers may be in short supply so hunters should plan accordingly. Hunters are encouraged to practice shooting nonlead ammunition to make sure firearms are sighted-in properly and shoot accurately with nonlead ammunition.

In October 2013, Assembly Bill 711 was signed into law requiring the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting anywhere in the state by July 1, 2019. The law also required an implementation plan designed to impose the least burden on California’s hunters while adhering to the intent of the law.

In order to determine what was least disruptive to hunters, CDFW coordinated question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, held meetings with hunting organizations, and hosted a series of eight public workshops throughout the state. Incorporating the public input from these workshops, CDFW then presented draft regulations to the Fish and Game Commission.

In April 2015, the Fish and Game Commission adopted CDFW’s proposed regulations and implementation plan.

More information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition.

Media Contacts:
Craig Stowers, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3553
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

CDFW Busts Suspected Sturgeon Poachers; Sacramento County District Attorney Files Charges

Six Sacramento residents have been charged with multiple Fish and Game Code violations after California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers concluded a multi-week investigation of a sturgeon poaching operation.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office will pursue a case against Sacramento residents Mikhail Tverdokhlebov, 54; Aleksandr Postnov, 48; Sang Saephan, 29; Narong Srikham, 35; Mike Keopraseut, 46; and Roongroji Sritula, 48. The six men face charges including conspiracy to unlawfully take sturgeon; take and possession of sturgeon for commercial purposes; unlawful possession of sturgeon; possession of untagged and oversize sturgeon (the maximum size is 60”); and failure to properly return/report sturgeon fishing cards.

Extensive evidence of illegal activities was uncovered by wildlife officers as they served search warrants at multiple locations where the suspected members of the group ran their poaching operation.

At one location officers found an oversized, untagged sturgeon that was barely alive and lay flopping on the floor of the garage. The fish could not be saved. Officers also found more than 20 jars of caviar (processed sturgeon roe or fish eggs), some labeled with prices; weights and sturgeon meat labeled with prices; and fish processing equipment including scales and canning equipment. Officers seized fishing rods and tackle along with various CDFW licenses and tags, and other tools and evidence of illegal poaching activities.

If convicted, the six suspects could face several thousand dollars in fines and penalties, incarceration, forfeiture of assets and equipment and revocation of fishing privileges.

Two types of sturgeon, white and green, are native to the anadromous waterways of California. White sturgeon, which was taken in this case, is highly sought after for its meat and roe. This creates a commercial black market that leads to rampant poaching of the species. CDFW spends significant resources on equipment and personnel hours to combat sturgeon poaching and protect this iconic species of California’s Central Valley.

“Illegal trafficking of wildlife is a multi-million dollar black market industry often linked to criminal organizations,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “Wildlife trafficking threatens the stability of species, the economy and public safety, not only in California, but also globally.”

Anyone with information about unlawful fishing, hunting, or pollution is encouraged to contact CDFW CalTIP, 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.

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Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (530) 523-6720