Tag Archives: Law Enforcement

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

California Wildlife Officers Receive State’s Highest Honor, Medal of Valor

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers Ryan Stephenson and Timothy Little received awards today at the 2016 Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award Ceremony in Sacramento. The awards acknowledge state employees for acts of heroism and bravery. Officer Stephenson and Little will both receive the Gold Medal for their “Special Acts” defined by the program as, “an extraordinary act of heroism by a state employee extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service performed at great risk to his/her own life in an effort to save human life.”

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Wildlife Officer Ryan Stephenson:

On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Stephenson was patrolling Lake County when the Valley Fire ignited. The fire had just consumed the small town of Cobb and was now headed toward Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake.

Stephenson raced ahead of the inferno to warn people about the fire and help them evacuate so they wouldn’t be trapped by the flames. Working door to door, he had evacuated several homes and escorted eight people to safety when one of the residents realized their neighbor had been overlooked. The neighbor, an 88-year-old wheelchair bound woman, was still in her home, lying on the couch, unaware of the approaching fire. Officer Stephenson quickly returned to her street, which was now engulfed in flames, identified the woman’s house, entered, and found her asleep on her couch. She was unable to get out on her own, so Officer Stephenson carried her in his arms to his patrol truck. As he was getting ready to leave, the woman told him she was worried about her dog. Officer Stephenson then went back into her home and returned to the truck with her dog, driving them all to safety just minutes before her home became engulfed in flames. The fire subsequently destroyed the woman’s home.

Stephenson’s heroic act saved the life of an elderly woman and her dog.

Wildlife Officer Timothy Little:

On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Little was working as a safety patrol in the town of Cobb as he and other first responders scrambled to evacuate or assist residents during the Valley Fire.

As the fire began to consume the small town of Cobb, an emergency call went out about an elderly woman trapped in her home and in need of immediate rescue. Hearing radio calls from other rescue personnel saying they were unable to respond because of fire and debris in the roadway, Little immediately headed toward the woman’s home. Driving his patrol vehicle through raging flames and burning road hazards, Little found the house and entered the home where he found an elderly woman trapped with her 11-month old granddaughter. Little rescued both the woman and child, getting them out of their home safely just minutes before fire incinerated her home.

Shortly afterward, Little learned that another elderly woman was trapped in her house and needed serious medical attention. He also learned that no medical transport crews would be able to make it there in time. He raced to provide aid. After locating the house, he found the woman trapped on the second floor, unable to walk. Little carried her down a flight of stairs to a waiting vehicle and escorted them to the hospital. Little then continued to assist in other searches.

Little’s heroic acts saved the lives of two women and one infant.

“Our more than 400 wildlife officers understand and accept their roles as peace officers, caretakers, guardians and public servants,” said CDFW Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “They are well trained and prepared to not only deal with wildlife law enforcement, but general peace officer work and first responder duties. The brave and selfless acts by these officers exemplify the outstanding force of CDFW wildlife officers.”

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

CDFW Seeking Tips After Finding Desert Bighorn Skull

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers are looking for any information the public may have regarding an abandoned skull of a mature male desert bighorn sheep found last May in Alameda County.

The skull was found near Newpark Mall in Newark, in an area with very limited pedestrian traffic. It was in good condition with some flesh and hair still attached to the skull, and it appeared as though someone attempted to conceal it. Desert bighorn sheep are native to California, but are found primarily in the southeastern mountainous areas. They do not naturally occur anywhere near the area where the skull was found.

Lawful hunting of bighorn sheep occurs annually in California, but is heavily regulated with very limited opportunities. In 2015, only 11 bighorn sheep hunting tags were issued by CDFW. Wildlife officers are confident the skull was not legally harvested.

Anyone with information about the skull is encouraged to call CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program, at (888) 334-2258 or send a text to tip411. Both options allow the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information to assist in this investigation.

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

Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (530) 523-6720
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

The Future of Wildlife Is In Our Hands

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes World Wildlife Day, declared by the United Nations (UN). On March 3, 2013 the UN General Assembly signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“Poaching persists today across the globe and right here in California,” Chief of CDFW Law Enforcement Division David Bess said. “Wildlife officers dedicate their lives to stopping poachers – in particular, those who illegally sell wildlife and their parts for personal profit.”

Illegal commercialization of wildlife is a multi-million dollar industry right here in California, and is valued at hundreds of millions worldwide. The illegal black market trafficking of wildlife could be eliminated if people simply refused to purchase wildlife or wildlife parts.

California’s wildlife officers routinely work with our federal counterparts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent people from smuggling wildlife parts into California. Even with combined forces, we can only stop a fraction of the illegal poaching contraband that enters the state.

Many species of wildlife around the world face extinction because of people who capture them for the illegal pet trade or kill them for their body parts. According to a report released by the Secretariat of CITES, more than 20,000 African elephants were poached across the continent in 2013. The ivory trade has been illegal for years, yet poachers continue to make money selling it to people who carve it into art and trinkets, then sell it to collectors and others around the world.

“We celebrate World Wildlife Day to raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants, and their importance in every ecosystem,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Our department’s employees are passionate about the work we do as the state wildlife trustee agency and are committed to our mission to manage California’s native wildlife.”

CDFW joins the United Nations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many other individuals and organizations asking the public to help protect the world’s wildlife by reporting crimes, including illegal trade in wildlife and their body parts. Phone Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) at 888-334-2258 or send a text to “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message: to 847411 (tip411).

Alternatively, you can download the free CALTIP smartphone App, which operates similarly to tip411 by creating an anonymous two-way conversation to report wildlife and pollution violations to wildlife officers. The CALTIP App can be downloaded, free, via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

More information can be found on the CDFW website:
Elephant Ivory, sale of in California (PDF)
Elephant Ivory, state and federal laws regarding (PDF)
Restricted Species – Penal Code Section 653(o) (PDF)

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Media Contacts:
Chris Stoots, Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-9982
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Shikar-Safari Club International Honors Lt. Andrew Halverson as Wildlife Officer of the Year

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Lt. Andrew Halverson was recently selected by the Shikar-Safari Club International as recipient of its 2015 Wildlife Officer of the Year award.HalversonAndrew (2)

Shikar-Safari honors one wildlife officer each year who exemplifies outstanding leadership, skill, conduct and ingenuity in the performance of his or her duties. Lt. Halverson demonstrates these characteristics and more, and is recognized as a true leader among his peers, fellow wildlife officers and command staff. He has good working relationships with allied agencies and constituents in communities he proudly serves. He is known and respected for his work ethic, sense of humor, professionalism and integrity. In addition to performing his lieutenant duties in Kern County, he balances a diverse case load, field training officer tasks, department firearms armorer tasks and his special assignment to the Inland Region of the California Hazardous Materials Investigators Association, covering 13 counties.

“Lt. Halverson truly encompasses everything the Shikar-Safari award stands for,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Division Chief David Bess.

Lt. Halverson embodies the skills and abilities of a well-rounded wildlife officer and leads his squad of six in Kern County by example. Last year, Halverson was lead case officer in several challenging cases involving environmental and habitat violations. He takes the extra steps necessary to assure properly investigated cases, with accurate documentation of events and actions. His value as an investigator is immeasurable. Halverson possesses a master’s degree in forensics and has five years of experience as a crime scene investigator. As a lieutenant, he is creative, supportive and readily applies his abilities to stop poachers, polluters and unlawful marijuana cultivators.

Kern County has experienced an increase in black bear activity over the last few years and as result, Lt. Halverson and his squad have handled a high volume of difficult human-wildlife conflicts involving bears. They have handled a variety of issues ranging from bears in homes, bears in trees and bears in towns. Halverson applies his creative nature to develop unique and successful approaches to dealing with these challenges.

Halverson readily conducts public outreach events and meetings. He has a talent for working with the public, the media, businesses and allied law enforcement agencies. Regardless of the challenges, even in highly charged and potentially political situations, Lt. Halverson has a natural ability to see problems through to a successful resolution.

Shikar-Safari was founded in 1952 as a hunting organization but quickly recognized its potential to affect meaningful change in the area of wildlife conservation. Funds raised by the Shikar-Safari Club International Foundation are used to support various conservation projects in the United States and throughout the world.

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