Category Archives: Enforcement

San Francisco Abalone Poacher Busted Three Times in Three Weeks

Media Contact:
Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

A San Francisco man was recently caught poaching abalone during the closed season – for the third time in three weeks. The last arrest came on Feb. 19, 2011, when game wardens from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) arrested Qiong Wang, 31, for felony conspiracy and take of abalone for commercial purposes, among other charges. Wardens also arrested Wang’s companion, Michael Trevors, 28, of San Francisco, on similar charges.

On Feb. 2, an officer from the Petaluma Police Department contacted Wang in Petaluma during an investigation of another crime. He found him in possession of five abalone. The officer was aware that abalone season was closed. He cited and released Wang for four poaching misdemeanors (unlawful take, take of abalone out of season, possession of an overlimit and failure to tag).

On Feb. 12, a Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputy stopped Wang for speeding on Highway 28 near Boonville. The deputy found two wet duffel bags containing fresh abalone in the back seat and contacted his dispatch to request assistance from a DFG warden. Warden Don Powers responded and discovered 36 red abalone, five of which were undersize. Powers also found five SCUBA tanks and associated SCUBA diving gear in the trunk of Wang’s car. Wang was booked into Mendocino County Jail for possession of abalone for commercial sale. His Toyota sedan and all dive gear were seized as evidence.

On Feb. 19, five days after being released from jail for the last poaching incident, Wang and Trevors were spotted using SCUBA gear to poach abalone from a rented kayak in Van Damme State Park. For approximately two hours, wardens watched as the partners kayaked into the ocean and collected 55 abalone. The men returned to shore, stashed the abalone near the beach and drove to the Sub-Surface Progression dive shop in Fort Bragg to return the rented kayak. Wardens contacted the pair at the dive shop. Both men were arrested and booked into Mendocino County Jail. Wardens recovered the hidden abalone and Trevors’ vehicle and all related dive gear were seized.

Despite aggressive enforcement and prosecution, wardens have noticed an increase in abalone poaching over the last few years, on the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts in particular. “For many abalone poachers, the profit from the illegal sale of abalone clearly outweighs the risks of getting caught,” said DFG Assistant Chief Tony Warrington.
Abalone season closed Dec. 1, and does not reopen until April 1.

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Fort Bragg Warden Honored by National Wild Turkey Federation

Media Contacts:
Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988

Warden Don Powers
Warden Don Powers

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Warden Don Powers of Fort Bragg has been named 2010 Officer of the Year by the California Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

“Since joining DFG in 2007, Warden Powers has proven to be a tenacious enforcer of laws that protect California’s fish, wildlife and habitat,” said Nancy Foley, Chief of DFG’s Law Enforcement Division.

Due to his coastal location, Warden Powers spends a high percentage of his time pursuing abalone poachers. However, he also enjoys heading east into the rural Mendocino County mountains to patrol for habitat and streambed violations, and deer and turkey poaching. Powers is known to hike for many miles to track down wildlife law violators. When off duty, he always makes time to maintain his physical fitness, which also aids him in pursuing his favorite pastime of turkey hunting.

Turkeys factored into one of Powers’ larger cases last year, when DFG discovered an illegal 15,000 plant marijuana cultivation site with significant pollution and habitat destruction violations. Throughout the grow site, which was in an area known for wild turkeys, Powers found piles of turkey feathers. In the middle of the camp, he found a bucket with a freshly killed turkey alongside another bucket with a freshly killed deer fawn. The carcasses were proof of two poaching violations to add to a very long list of environmental crimes committed at the cultivation site.

In addition to being skilled at handling complex cases involving multiple violators, Warden Powers is known for his ability to effectively communicate with law-abiding hunters, sharing tips on how to catch the most egregious offenders and engaging the public in his efforts to ensure that violators are found and brought to justice. He has a reputation for being fair and treating all those he encounters with courtesy and respect.

The NWTF is a national nonprofit conservation and hunting organization that, along with its volunteers, partners and sponsors, has worked for the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of the hunting heritage for nearly 40 years. When the NWTF was established in 1973, there were only 1.3 million wild turkeys. Today that number stands at more than seven million birds throughout North America and hunting seasons have been established in 49 states, Canada and Mexico. Every year, NWTF honors a California game warden who serves as an outstanding example of their mission on behalf of wild turkeys, turkey hunting and wildlife conservation.

Poacher Receives Two-Year Prison Sentence for Wasting Game, Other Offenses

Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 651-2084

A bear poaching conviction has landed a Novato man in state prison for two years. Wayne Richard Barsch, 49, was already a two-strike felon when sentenced on Feb. 4 by Glenn County Judge John Tiernan. Barch will also face an as-yet-undermined fine, and his hunting and fishing privileges have been revoked for life.

Barsch was contacted by Warden Mike Beals in rural Glenn County in December 2010. Beals was on a routine patrol when he encountered Barsch and his two hunting partners attempting to process a bear they had killed at least a day earlier. The terrain near the kill site was extremely rugged and Barsch was having difficulty transporting the carcass and equipment back to his truck.

A check through DFG dispatch revealed Barsch was a convicted felon and had a restraining order against him, either of which would prevent him from being in possession of any firearm. Warden Beals found that Barsch was in possession of .45 handgun, a bear head, four bear paws and the bear gall bladder, but only 15 lbs. of bear meat (far less than what would be expected to come from a 200 lb. carcass). It is a crime in California to waste meat from any game animal. Barsch had also failed to tag the bear after killing it.

Since Barsch was on searchable probation, seven wardens went to his residence. In his freezer they found another bear gall bladder, five bear paws, a bear head and a bear penis, as well as meat from a female deer that was possibly taken unlawfully.

Barsch will serve at least 85 percent of the two-year prison sentence handed down last week. Because he was a two-strike felon, the courts may add to his prison sentence.

DFG Warden and K-9 Partner Help Clear Man Charged with Murder

Warden Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement (916) 508-7095

Trinity County Sheriff’s Deputies and a DFG Warden and his K-9 partner searched a snow covered property in Douglas City and recovered a hidden rifle at the center of a murder investigation. The man accused of murder said the rifle was used to threaten him in an altercation that left an elderly man dead.

Trinity County District Attorney’s Office yesterday dismissed all charges against Jesus Salas, 50, of Douglas City, stemming from the Nov. 26, 2010 incident. Salas was charged with the murder of Melvin Burtis, 78, of Douglas City, as well as elder abuse, hit and run, and other charges. It was determined that Salas acted in self defense as Burtis pointed a rifle at him twice, making Salas fear for his life.

According to initial reports and witnesses, Salas ran over Burtis with his car as he was leaving the property only after Burtis threatened him with a rifle from close range. Two Burtis family members told officers that no gun was ever brandished. Responding Sheriff deputies were unable to locate a firearm and Salas was charged murder.

Four days later a search warrant was issued and DFG Game Warden Paul Cardoza and his K-9 partner, Kilo helped detectives search the snow-covered property. After 20 minutes, Kilo found a rifle hidden in a shed, under a pile of insulation. The rifle matched Salas’ description of the one he said Burtis was brandishing. It was covered with blood.

“Fortunately for Mr. Salas, law enforcement did an exemplary job at continuing the investigation and were able to take advantage of a well-trained officer, Kilo,” said Trinity County District Attorney Michael Harper.

After the gun was recovered, a Burtis family member admitted removing the gun from Burtis’ hands as he lay there on the ground and hiding it in the shed, then lying to investigators.

“Warden K-9s are trained to detect firearms, bullet casings and several varieties of game, as well as protect their handlers,” said Lt. Lynette Shimek, DFG K-9 program director. “While Warden Cardoza and K-9 Kilo’s efforts are usually directed at solving poaching crimes, the loss of life made the Trinity County investigation a priority.”

Trinity County officials are continuing the investigation and charges are expected to be filed against one of the witnesses.

Game Warden Receives Governor’s Medal of Valor

Media Contacts:
Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095
Dana Michaels, Office of Communications, (916) 322-2420

California Department of Fish and Game Warden Jorge Paz was awarded the state’s highest honor for heroism, Tuesday. His story is just one of many that illustrate how DFG wardens risk their lives for the benefit of others, every day.

“The Department of Fish and Game is extremely proud of Warden Paz,” said Chief Foley, “and all of our game wardens. They work harder than most people realize, and put their lives on the line each day for Californians and our natural resources.”

Fish and Game Warden Jorge Paz was awarded Governor Schwarzenegger’s Medal of Valor Tuesday for demonstrating an extraordinary act of bravery and heroism to save the life of another.

On October 17, 2009 Warden Jorge Paz was traveling eastbound on Highway 154 at the Cold Springs Bridge, Santa Barbara County, when he observed a man walking westbound on the southern side of the bridge. The man was walking at a slow pace, standing every few steps, and looking down below the bridge. Warden Paz pulled off the highway, found the man’s abandoned vehicle, and obtained identifying information from the license plate. He approached the man and called to him by name. The man responded by telling him that he was going to jump off the bridge.

Warden Paz immediately noticed the man’s size – six feet, four inches and approximately 200 pounds – compared to his own five foot, seven inch, 160-pound. frame. Because of the man’s size and the fact that Paz was by himself, he first attempted to calm the man by talking to him about his issues. The man had stated that he was wanted for murder in another state and that he wanted to end his life. The claim was later deemed unfounded. The man kept his hand near the guard rail and kept looking down to avoid eye contact. After about five minutes, CHP Officer Whitney Taylor arrived to assist.

Repeatedly, Warden Paz tried to talk the man out of suicide so he could handle his problems through counseling. When he was convinced the man would not comply, he made the decision to act. Paz gave Officer Taylor a three count behind his back. He charged the man. A struggle ensued. The man fought back and strained for the railing. With extreme difficulty, Warden Paz and Officer Taylor successfully subdued him and restrained him with handcuffs. Warden Paz and Officer Taylor’s actions likely prevented the man plunging off the bridge to his death.