Category Archives: Law Enforcement

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

 

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

 

CDFW Seeks Public Help for Humboldt County Elk Poaching Investigation

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information about an elk poaching case currently under investigation in Humboldt County.

On Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, CDFW wildlife officers responded to a poaching report in the Maple Creek area, southeast of Blue Lake. During the investigation, officers discovered four dead Roosevelt cow (female) elk. An examination showed the animals were recently killed with a firearm, and one of the elk was pregnant.

CDFW closely manages the state’s Roosevelt elk herds. A limited number of hunting permits are available for this species in Humboldt County, and some hunters wait more than a decade to be successful in the drawing. Elk hunting season was not open at the time these animals were shot.

Officers are continuing their investigation, including processing evidence left at the crime scene. CDFW asks that anyone who has any information regarding this poaching crime to contact the statewide tip hotline, CalTIP, at 1 (888) 334-2258. Tips can also be sent via text to CALTIP, followed by a space and the message to tip411 (847411). 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.

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Media Contacts:
Warden John Fraley, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (707) 445-6493

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Opening Weekend of Lobster Season Keeps Southern California Wildlife Officers Busy

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Wildlife officers from across Southern California participated in an enhanced patrol for opening weekend of the 2018 lobster season, which began on Sept. 29. The goal was to facilitate a safe and enjoyable start to lobster season and enforce the laws so future generations can also enjoy the sport.

Wildlife officers from inland regions of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties converged on the coast to pool resources and enhance coverage. Both shore-based patrols and boat patrols were utilized. In total, officers made 2,088 contacts with lobster fishers, gave 165 warnings and issued 106 citations. Citations included overlimit of lobster and other fish, take of undersized lobster and other fish, unlawful take from Marine Protected Areas, lobster report card violations, an unlawful Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel operation and even a DUI.

One particularly notable case was in San Diego, where wildlife officers on boat patrol pulled up on a vessel with two persons on board. Upon approach, the men started throwing lobsters overboard. The officers quickly boarded the vessel and located 26 lobsters hidden throughout. The men were cited for an overlimit of lobster and report card violations. Another significant bust and citation occurred farther north in Orange County, where two wildlife officers made one case involving 27 lobsters taken the night prior to the opener (thus out of season).

During a large opener like this, the vast majority of individuals contacted by officers are law-abiding fishers and divers who cooperate with law enforcement and are even eager to show off their hard-earned catch. For example, in Dana Point Harbor in Orange County, Warden Andreas Gilbert contacted a group of four lobster free-divers (a free-diver is a diver who holds their breath, dives to the bottom for lobster, sometimes in the dark with a flashlight in one hand, and grabs the lobster with the other). The four were in possession of several legal lobsters and were extremely cooperative with Gilbert. After the contact, they asked to pose for a photo with Gilbert, who happily obliged.

CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division reminds lobster fishers to keep their activities safe. SCUBA divers should make sure their gear is in order and they are healthy and strong enough to safely dive. Most dive shops offer refresher courses for SCUBA-certified divers who may be rusty. At minimum, divers should try on all their gear ahead of time and hop in a pool. And always dive with a buddy – never alone.

Officers are always on patrol, and this year they are keeping a particularly close eye out for incidents of poaching from commercial traps. The State of California has partnered with commercial lobster fishers on permitting and scientific data collection for decades, and strictly regulates commercial lobster fishing in large part to support and protect the resource and industry. Stealing from commercial traps is a serious crime – in addition to being illegal, the behavior is unethical and unsportsmanlike, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In July, a San Diego area poacher previously convicted of stealing lobsters from traps was convicted and sentenced to 45 days in jail, was fined $1,000 and all gear seized during the investigation was forfeited by the court. He was also placed on three years probation, during which time he must stay away from the South La Jolla State Marine Reserve.

Please visit CDFW’s lobster information webpage to review helpful information and links to current regulations.

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Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 322-8911
Lt. Scott Bringman, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (619) 562-2456