Category Archives: Law 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

 

CDFW to Meet with Public, Sell Licenses and Warden Stamps at Del Mar Fred Hall Show

Del Mar-area residents can purchase 2019 licenses, validations and report cards, as well as 2019 Warden Stamps, directly from California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) staff at the 43rd Del Mar Fred Hall Show scheduled next week at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar (San Diego County). Warden stamp sales help fund CDFW’s K-9 program and support purchases of enforcement equipment.

The show will be open from noon to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 28 and on Friday, March 29. On Saturday, March 30, the show runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday, March 31, the show is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Attendees can learn how to become a wildlife officer by speaking with CDFW wildlife officers at the law enforcement trailer. The trailer features fish and wildlife mounts, and a free laser-shot activity.

Attendees can also learn about historic fish-stocking procedures as a restored 1925 Dodge truck once used by CDFW for transporting hatchery fish will be on display, along with a modern fish-transporting truck. Also featured will be information on CDFW’s Fishing in the City and hatchery programs, and a free youth fishing pond stocked with rainbow trout provided by CDFW.

Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors 62 and older, or $10 for military with ID (available only at the ticket window). Children under 16 with a paid adult are free.

For more information, please visit www.fredhall.com.

Media Contact:
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

CDFW to Sell Licenses and Warden Stamps, Meet with Public at Long Beach Fred Hall Show

Long Beach-area residents can purchase their 2019 licenses, validations and report cards, as well as 2019 Warden Stamps directly from California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) staff at the 73rd annual Long Beach Fred Hall Show scheduled this week at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. Warden stamps sales help fund CDFW’s K-9 program and support purchases of enforcement equipment.

CDFW leaders will participate in a discussion panel followed by a question and answer session. Participants will include law enforcement personnel and Dr. Craig Shuman, Marine Region Manager, who will provide an overview of current natural resource and conservation topics and take questions from the public on a variety of issues. The panel discussion is scheduled Friday, March 8, at 3 p.m. in the Mammoth Lakes Seminar Theater. Pete Gray, host of the radio show “Let’s Talk Hook Up,” will be the moderator.

“The annual Fred Hall Shows provide an exciting opportunity for Southern California anglers and outdoor enthusiasts to interact with our scientists, wildlife officers and other staff to get their questions answered and learn about the wide range of recreational opportunities California has to offer,” said Shuman.

The show will be open from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6, Thursday, March 7, and Friday, March 8. On Saturday, March 9, the show runs from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and on Sunday, March 10, the show is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Attendees can learn how to become a wildlife officer by speaking with CDFW wildlife officers at the law enforcement trailer. The trailer features fish and wildlife mounts, and a free laser-shot activity. Attendees can also learn about historic fish-stocking procedures as a restored 1925 Dodge truck once used by CDFW for transporting hatchery fish will be on display, along with a modern fish-transporting truck. Also featured will be information on CDFW’s Fishing in the City and hatchery programs, and a free youth fishing pond stocked with rainbow trout provided by CDFW.

Unfortunately, the Great American Duck Races will not be a feature of the Long Beach show due to an order by the State Veterinarian instituting a quarantine on birds for much of Southern California.

Admission at the Long Beach Fred Hall Show is $18 for adults, $16 for seniors 62 and older, or $13 for military with ID (available only at the ticket window). Children under 15 with a paid adult are free.

CDFW will also have staff at two other Fred Hall Shows scheduled this month — March 15-17 at the Kern County Fairgrounds in Bakersfield and March 28-31 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Del Mar (San Diego County).

For more information, please visit www.fredhall.com.

Media Contact:
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

 

 

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

Water Bird Die-off at Salton Sea

Thousands of water birds died of an avian cholera outbreak at the south end of the Salton Sea between Jan. 8-17. Outbreaks like this one occur annually as a result of birds flocking closely together during migration.

On Jan. 8, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) began receiving reports of hundreds of dead birds at the south end of the Salton Sea from local waterfowl hunters and staff at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR). CDFW investigated the event and discovered over a thousand bird carcasses concentrated around Bruchard Bay west of the New River. Over the next week, staff from CDFW and SBNWR collected more than 1,200 carcasses consisting of mainly Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Black-necked Stilts and Gulls. Most carcasses were incinerated at SBNWR to reduce the spread of disease; however, several samples were shipped to the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab in Rancho Cordova to determine the cause of death. The samples tested positive for avian cholera.

avian chol 2

Avian cholera is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida. Outbreaks occur annually during the winter in California and may result in the deaths of thousands of birds. Waterfowl and coots are the most commonly affected. Pasteurella multocida is released into the environment by dead and dying birds or asymptomatic carriers, and is transmitted through direct bird-to-bird contact or through the ingestion of contaminated food or water. Predatory and scavenging birds may acquire avian cholera by feeding on infected birds. Avian cholera is transmitted easily between birds when they flock together in high densities. Birds are most susceptible to the disease during stressful periods, especially during the winter months when birds congregate at key water sources during migration, and the weather is cold and damp.

Avian cholera can affect rabbits and mice but not other mammals. It is not considered a high risk disease for humans. However, hunters should always cook their game thoroughly. For more information, please refer to the full Field Guide to Wildlife Diseases.

CDFW staff will continue monitoring and collecting carcasses around the Salton Sea over the next few weeks. CDFW’s Bermuda Dunes Field Office, Wildlife Investigations Lab and local game wardens will continue to coordinate with partners, including staff at SBNWR and the Imperial Wildlife Area – Wister Unit to share information and prepare to respond should the die off increase.

CDFW is also asking club owners and habitat managers to make a report if multiple dead birds are found on their property. Reports can be made to CDFW’s Dead Bird Hotline at 1 (877) 968-2473.

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