Category Archives: poaching

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Redding

At its June 2019 meeting in Redding, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. Commission President Eric Sklar and Commissioners Russell Burns, Samantha Murray and Peter Silva were present. Commission Vice President Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent. The following are just a few items of interest from the two-day meeting.

The Commission voted to move the policy on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fisheries management from the Wildlife Resources Committee to the full Commission for further review and potential changes. Scores of Delta anglers were drawn to the meeting for this item because it includes policy regarding striped bass and predation concerns on salmon.

“We hear you. We see you,” Commissioner Murray told the crowd as she thanked them for their public engagement. Commissioners explained that in their review of that policy, they would consider the anglers’ concerns about lost striped bass fishing opportunity on the Delta.

The Commission voted 3-1 to accept a petition to list four species of bumble bees for protection under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The action  begins a one-year status review of the species and following that review, the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the bee species have protections under CESA as a candidate species. Commissioner Burns was the dissenting vote.

The Commission voted 4-0 to accept a petition to list summer steelhead under CESA. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, summer steelhead have protections under CESA as a candidate species.

The Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess announced Jessica Brown as 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Brown is Supervising City Attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.

The Commission consented to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s additional acquisition of 487 acres to expand the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

CDFW Marine Region staff informed Commissioners that effective July 1, 2019, electronic reporting of landing data is mandatory for fish businesses with a multifunction license, fishermen’s retail license or the fish receiver’s license who are reporting the sale or delivery of commercial fish landings. Two outreach events are scheduled for next week to assist businesses with this transition:

  • June 17, 2019 from 2-4 p.m. at the CDFW Office, 32330 N Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg.
  • June 18, 2019 from 1-4 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Office, 601 Startare Dr., Eureka.

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The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

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

Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Prosecutor Honored for Pursuit of Justice in Wildlife Crimes

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Fish and Game Commission are pleased to name Jessica Brown, Supervising City Attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office as 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Brown oversees the Environmental Justice Unit in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, which includes a team of superb prosecutors, all of whom are highly dedicated to the successful prosecution of fish and wildlife cases.

Jessica Brown
Jessica Brown, 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year

“The Los Angeles City Attorney’s team of Environmental Justice Unit prosecutors, and especially Ms. Brown, have worked tirelessly to prosecute poachers and to send a clear message that poaching and trafficking of wildlife will not be tolerated,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Ms. Brown is a true asset to the protection of California’s natural resources and has displayed exceptional skill and an outstanding commitment with her relentless pursuit of justice.”

The following are just a few examples of her tenacious work.

  • Brown and her team prosecuted some of the first ivory trafficking cases in California, including winning convictions in the first two ivory cases to go to jury trial, since the Legislature strengthened the law to prohibit ivory trafficking in July 2016. The multi-week trials involved litigating a vast array of legal topics related to the recently enacted statute, including developing jury instructions, crafting complex pretrial motions and arguing numerous legal concepts during trial. Brown and her team demonstrated exceptional cooperation with wildlife officers, wildlife forensic specialists and the CDFW Office of General Counsel throughout all stages of these trials, from pretrial preparation through sentencing. “It was critical to prosecute these first ivory trafficking cases right the first time since it would set the stage for future prosecution of similar cases,” said Chief Bess.
  • Brown and her team were instrumental in the filing of complex cases related to interstate seafood trafficking. This joint law enforcement operation involved wildlife officers from California, Maine and Hawaii and resulted in several Fish and Game Code violations against numerous retail establishments. During the operation, Brown went above and beyond in conducting her own investigations into records violations, which significantly contributed to the successful outcome of this case.
  • Brown and her team prosecuted a recent high-profile restricted species possession case involving a monkey. Another case involved a convicted drug dealer who illegally possessed a tiger. CDFW and the Commission hope the cases will have long-term deterrence impacts and help educate people that exotic pets do not belong in unpermitted homes, owned by people who lack the qualifications to properly care for them.
  • Brown and her team have also regularly assisted CDFW wildlife officers with marine enforcement cases involving unlicensed commercial passenger fishing vessels, resulting in positive marine conservation benefits for the state. Brown understands the importance of California’s ocean’s resources and takes action against those who illegally exploit them for personal gain.

If all this was not enough, Ms. Brown and her team have shared their knowledge and expertise with fellow prosecutors by spearheading a statewide prosecution task force dedicated to stopping wildlife trafficking. Prosecutors around the state now have additional resources to facilitate successful prosecutions of cases concerning the illegal commercialization of wildlife, with significant credit going to Brown.

“I certainly understand why the CDFW and the Commission are honoring Jessica Brown as Prosecutor of the Year,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “I’m a big fan. Jessica’s determination to protect the environment and our wildlife – and hold accountable those who violate the law – is an example for all of us. My colleagues and I are inspired by her commitment, passion and hard work.”

As the supervising attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Environmental Justice Unit, Brown’s steadfast dedication to CDFW’s cases has earned her the respect of wildlife officers and she has been instrumental in advancing the successful prosecution of CDFW cases in California. Her devotion to the protection and conservation of California’s natural resources makes her worthy of this recognition.

 

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CDFW Graduates Six New Warden K-9s

May is graduation season and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division K-9 Academy is no exception. Six new K-9s graduated from the program today and are now ready to put their skills in law enforcement and environmental protection to work.

All of the dogs are trained to detect illegally taken wildlife, invasive species, hidden firearms, expended casings and other evidence or articles. About half of CDFW’s K-9s are dual purpose, meaning they do detection work but also protect their handlers, other law enforcement officers, and the public and aid in the apprehension of suspects.

The new teams and their upcoming assignments are as follows:

  • Warden Shane Embry and K-9 Link. Link is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois. Dual Purpose team assigned to Humboldt County.
  • Warden Michael Hampton and K-9 Leeloo. Leeloo is a 3-year-old German Shepherd. Detection team assigned to Humboldt County.
  • Warden Michael Beals and K-9 Rage. Rage is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois. Dual Purpose team assigned to Glenn County.
  • Warden Jeffrey Moran and K-9 Tess. Tess is a 6-year-old Belgian Malinois. Detection team assigned to Stanislaus County.
  • Warden Casey Thomas and K-9 Canna. Canna is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois. Dual Purpose team assigned to Marijuana Permitting.
  • Warden Nick Molsberry and K-9 Scout. Scout is a 2-year-old English Springer Spaniel. Detection team assigned to Orange County.

Today’s graduation followed eight weeks of intensive training to bring the dogs’ behavior and field responses up to the standards of detection and handler protection required by CDFW and California Peace Officers Standards and Training.

“Our Warden K-9 teams have dramatically increased the officer safety during some very dangerous missions in the backcountry, and have helped us track down and arrest hundreds of felony suspects,” said Lt. Bob Pera, CDFW K-9 program coordinator. “Then the next day, they may put on a demonstration at a public event or school function where they inevitably garner the attention of all present and help gain support for CDFW law enforcement programs.”

Notably, the teams have already begun to show their mettle in the field. Just after their formal certification May 22, Warden Beals and his new K-9 partner Rage joined two veteran K-9 teams, Warden Aaron Galway and K-9 partner Ghille and Warden Nick Buckler and K-9 partner Beedo, for a first patrol. Just nine minutes into the shift, they observed a vehicle committing several driving violations on Highway 36 near Red Bluff. The driver made some headway before they could make the stop. It took some investigative effort to realize a passenger had hopped out of the vehicle earlier and ran off to hide in the brush. Rage deployed and soon located a lighter and a hat off the side of the road 400 yards from the where the vehicle came to a stop. Rage immediately started directly on the track while Ghille came in from a different angle. Warden Buckler and Beedo deployed in an adjacent canyon to cut off any possible escape. Rage tracked the suspect to his hiding place about the same time Warden Galway and Ghille established visual contact. The suspect quickly surrendered for fear of sustaining a bite. He had outstanding warrants for 15 felony violations in North Carolina and had been on the run for more than 12 years.

“CDFW K-9s are selected for drive, determination and obedience. Then they are intensively trained for work specific to wildlife law enforcement,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. “The dogs absolutely love what they do, as do their handlers. And at the end of the day, they ask for nothing in return other than a favorite rubber ball, lavish praise and belly scratches.”

CDFW’s K-9 program is funded largely by private donations through the California Wildlife Officers Foundation and handlers thank them for their continued support.

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Media Contacts:
Lt. Kyle Kroll, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (530) 575-5736
Warden Kyle Glau, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (530) 559-7542

Reward Offered in North State Elk Poaching Case

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters Program (CalTIP) is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the poacher responsible for killing four Roosevelt elk in Humboldt County last December.

On Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, CDFW wildlife officers responded to a poaching report in the Maple Creek area, southeast of Blue Lake. There they discovered four dead Roosevelt cow elk and evidence that they had been killed with a firearm. One 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, and CDFW is asking the public for help with any information that may help bring the poachers to justice.

“This poacher shot these animals and left them for dead,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Division District Capt. AJ Bolton. “The vast majority of hunters are ethical and law-abiding citizens, but this is poaching, plain and simple.”

CDFW extends its thanks to four non-governmental hunting organizations that pledged the reward money to help solve this case. Those organizations are California Bowmen Hunters, California Houndsmen for Conservation, the Oranco Bowmen from Ontario and the Orange Belt Field Archers.

Wildlife 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 is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. CalTIP operates closely but independently from CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division and is funded exclusively from private donations.

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Media Contacts: 
Warden John Fraley, CDFW Law Enforcement, (707) 445-6493
Captain Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692

 

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