Tag Archives: law enforcement

CDFW, Partner Agencies Conclude Operation Yurok in Humboldt County

Marijuana Eradication Effort Focused on Misuse of Water and Habitat

Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently participated in a large-scale, multi-agency operation to address the devastating effects of illegal marijuana cultivation on fish, wildlife and the environment in northern California’s watersheds. The four-day mission concluded Thursday, July 16.

Operation Yurok, July 2015
Operation Yurok, July 2015
Operation Yurok, July 2015
Operation Yurok, July 2015

Allied law enforcement agencies including the State Water Resources Control Board, Yurok Tribal Police, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and federal law enforcement teamed with CDFW wildlife officers to serve dozens of search warrants, investigate pollution and water diversion crimes, and eradicate numerous marijuana plants as part of the joint effort dubbed “Operation Yurok.”

More than 100 environmental violations of the Fish and Game Code were discovered and eight suspects were arrested. Charges are pending for additional suspects.

“This operation was about more than just the criminality of marijuana cultivation,” said Lieutenant DeWayne Little of CDFW’s Watershed Enforcement Team (WET). “At its roots, it was about protection of the environment.” Created by CDFW in the last year, WET is comprised of both law enforcement officers and biologists, whose primary mission is to take an all-encompassing approach to investigating and protecting waterways from diversion, obstructions, alteration, pollution and litter.

During this period of unprecedented drought, water conservation is gravely important. An average mature marijuana plant consumes an estimated six to 12 gallons of water per day.

“Operation Yurok” teams eradicated more than 29,000 thirsty marijuana plants from the area, which equates to hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day that will no longer be diverted and prevented from feeding the nearby Klamath River.

The Klamath River is considered by the locals to be the lifeline for many people. Water flows from the river must be great enough to sustain local drinking water needs and support successful salmon runs, which equate to a food source for the local Yurok tribe. Yurok Tribal members and other locals have expressed great concern about illegal marijuana grows in the area, due to the Klamath River’s historic low levels.

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Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

Three Prosecutors Awarded 2014 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year

Patrick McGrath, Yuba County DA. (Not pictured: Brad Enos, Yuba County DA, and Kevin Weichbrod, Santa Barbara DA.)
Patrick McGrath, Yuba County DA. (Not pictured: Brad Enos, Yuba County Deputy DA, and Kevin Weichbrod, Santa Barbara Deputy DA.)

The California Fish and Game Commission recently recognized three prosecutors for their exemplary dedication to the prosecution of wildlife crimes. District Attorney Patrick McGrath, Deputy District Attorney Brad Enos, both of Yuba County, and Deputy District Attorney Kevin Weichbrod of Santa Barbara Countywere selected from the ranks of California’s 58 counties to receive this notable distinction.

The 2014 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year Award was presented to these outstanding prosecutors amongst their peers at the California District Attorneys Association annual summer conference today in Napa.

“We do our best to thoughtfully craft regulations to protect California’s fish and wildlife resources and those who violate those regulations are destroying the natural resources that belong to all of us,” said Commission President Jack Baylis. “Successful prosecutions of poaching and pollution cases are directly dependent upon the working relationships between officers and the prosecutors. Thanks to these prosecutors, justice is served to those who violate the law.

The selection process was based upon recommendations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division, who regularly work with the various District Attorneys’ offices.  All three prosecutors came highly recommended by the respective wildlife officers from their counties. These three prosecutors understand and appreciate natural resource violations. They have shown a willingness to pursue felony charges when appropriate for the most egregious violators. These prosecutors regularly took on time consuming, tough cases and have followed the cases to the full extent, up to and including jury trials. They regularly requested forfeiture of equipment involved in the commission of the poaching crimes, high fine amounts, and revocation of fishing and hunting privileges to help put poachers permanently out of business.

CDFW and the Fish and Game Commission recognize and appreciate the efforts of all 58 counties’ District Attorneys’ offices when it comes to protection of the environment, fish and wildlife. There are many prosecutors within those offices who take poaching crimes seriously. In 2014, McGrath, Enos and Weichbrod were particularly effective.

The Fish and Game Commissioners intend to formalize the process of selecting a Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year, making it an annual award. For more information about the Commission, please visit www.fgc.ca.gov/.

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Media Contacts:
Sonke Mastrup, California Fish and Game Commission, (916) 653-4899
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

 

Nonlead Ammunition Requirement is Upon Us, No Lead Ammo on CDFW Lands Starting July 1

Nonlead Ammo PosterStarting July 1, 2015, nonlead ammunition will be required when hunting on all California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands and for all Nelson bighorn sheep hunts anywhere in the state.

CDFW reminds hunters who plan to hunt bighorn sheep or at any CDFW wildlife area or ecological reserve where hunting is allowed on or after July 1, 2015 to acquire nonlead ammunition well ahead of their hunt. Hunters are also encouraged to practice shooting nonlead ammunition to make sure firearms are sighted-in properly and shoot accurately with nonlead ammunition. Nonlead ammunition for some firearm calibers may be in short supply so hunters should plan accordingly.

In October 2013, Assembly Bill 711 was signed into law requiring the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting anywhere in the state by July 1, 2019. The bill also required an implementation plan designed to impose the least burden on California’s hunters while adhering to the intent of the law.

In order to determine what was least disruptive to hunters, CDFW coordinated question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, held meetings with hunting organizations and hosted a series of eight public workshops throughout the state. CDFW then presented draft regulations, as modified by public input from these workshops, to the Fish and Game Commission.

In April 2015, the Fish and Game Commission adopted CDFW’s proposed regulations and implementation plan.

Further phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California will continue on July 1, 2016, when nonlead ammunition will be required when hunting with shotguns for upland game birds (except for dove, quail and snipe), small game mammals, fur-bearing mammals and nongame birds except for when hunting at licensed game bird clubs. Nonlead ammunition will also be required when taking wildlife with shotguns for depredation purposes anywhere in the state.

Starting July 1, 2019, hunters must use nonlead ammunition when taking any animal anywhere in the state for any purpose.

Lead ammunition may still be used for target shooting. Existing restrictions on the use of lead ammunition in the California condor range remain in effect while implementation proceeds.

Hunting is not allowed at all CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves. For those areas where hunting is allowed, nonlead ammunition will be required starting July 1, 2015. Hunters are reminded to be familiar with all hunting regulations before going into the field.

More information on the phase-out of lead ammunition for hunting in California can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Nonlead-Ammunition.

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Media Contacts:
Craig Stowers, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3553
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

CDFW Law Enforcement Now Recruiting Current Peace Officers

Warden with binocularsThe California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is recruiting current peace officers who are interested in a career as a wildlife officer. Applications are open only to those who have:

  1. Successfully completed a California POST accredited Law Enforcement Academy,  possess a valid California POST basic peace officer certificate, and are currently employed as a peace officer within the State of California at time of application; or,
  2. Successfully completed (within the last 12 months) the CDFW Law Enforcement Academy, and possess a valid California POST basic academy certificate.

Applications must be postmarked by June 26.

“We are particularly interested in recruiting applicants with a passion for conservation of California’s fish and wildlife resources,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Division Chief David Bess.

The CDFW Law Enforcement Division expects an overwhelming number of inquiries and asks prospective candidates to extensively review materials on the website before contacting CDFW with questions. To read more about law enforcement careers with CDFW, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/career/.

To view the official job bulletin and detailed information on how to apply, please visit https://jobs.ca.gov/jobsgen/5fg07.pdf.

Those who are not currently working as a peace officer but are interested in a career as a wildlife officer may apply to attend the full 31-week Wildlife Officer Academy as a Wildlife Officer Cadet. The application period for the Academy is expected to open in the September or October.

California wildlife officers are charged with ensuring public safety, enforcing fish and wildlife laws, investigating illegal sales of wildlife, protecting the state from pollution, enforcing habitat protection laws, fighting illegal drug trafficking, keeping the homeland secure and responding during natural disasters. As peace officers, they have the authority to enforce all California laws, such as the Vehicle Code and Penal Code, and are federally deputized to enforce federal fish and wildlife laws.

A typical day for a California wildlife officer is as diverse as the state’s fish and wildlife. Wildlife officers patrol ocean, desert, mountain and valley environments, as well as urban areas. They frequently work independently and conduct full-scale law enforcement investigations. Wildlife officers employ everything from all-terrain vehicles to jet skis and snowmobiles while on patrol and spend much of their typical day making contact with Californians in the great outdoors. CDFW has a dive team and utilizes K-9 partners as well. Environmental crimes and pollution incidents also fall under the purview of wildlife officers. Annually, wildlife officers make contact with more than 295,000 people and issue more than 15,000 citations for violations of the law.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (530) 523-6720

CDFW Names Warden Chris Stoots as Wildlife Officer of the Year

Warden Chris Stoots and K9 Quinn
Warden Chris Stoots and K9 Quinn

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced the selection of Warden Chris Stoots as its 2015 Wildlife Officer of the Year. Stoots’ dedication to his job and the tenacity with which he relentlessly pursues poachers are widely respected by officers with many more years of experience and by his supervisors within the Law Enforcement Division, as well as within the community where he works.

“As good as he is at catching poachers, Stoots finds time to promote ethical enjoyment of California’s fish and wildlife resources in both a consumptive and non-consumptive manner,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Chief David Bess. “Stoots has done dozens of community presentations and enjoys interacting with outdoors enthusiasts at hunting and fishing trade shows. His enthusiasm for his job is evident no matter what he’s doing.”

A warden since 2008, Stoots has been based out of Colusa County. In recent years, he has developed a reputation for turning small and unlikely pieces of information into what most officers would consider to be a once-in-a-career case. In 2014, Stoots was the lead investigator in a large-scale, multi-suspect, multi-county commercial poaching case involving habitual offenders. The case culminated with the service of search warrants at seven locations and followup at an additional five. Stoots committed several months to the extensive investigation, including coordinating a three-day jury trial with eight officers’ testimonies. His persistence and collaboration with the District Attorney resulted in an unprecedented number of felony and misdemeanor convictions, including night hunting, spotlighting, trespassing, hunting in closed seasons, take without proper tags, exceeding bag limits, prohibited species, illegal snaring, shooting from vehicles, shooting near dwellings, commercial sales of sport taken wildlife, theft of diesel fuel, marijuana cultivation and felons in possession of firearms.

Based on the gravity and magnitude of the violations, the suspects’ criminal histories, and the thorough investigation and testimony by Stoots, the suspects received prison and jail sentences of up to seven years, and forfeiture of their ATV and trailer, 25 firearms and all other hunting equipment, and several hundred pounds of wild game meat.

Stoots uses a variety of surveillance tools, including night vision, to combat stealthy poachers. He regularly uses the CDFW wildlife forensics laboratory to process even the smallest evidence samples and connect them to crimes committed against wildlife.

In addition to his remarkable investigative work, Stoots has brought great credit to CDFW over the course of his career by still making time to take on additional assignments. He spent three months as one of CDFW’s representatives for the California Department of Justice Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, and he serves as a firearms instructor, a field training officer, a canine handler and a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management team. He is often recognized in public, as he appeared as one of the primary officers in the National Geographic television series Wild Justice.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

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

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Honors Assistant Chief John Baker

Assistant Chief Baker in Fay Canyon
Asst. Chief John Baker on a cleanup operation in Fay Canyon

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today honored Assistant Chief John Baker of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with the Guy Bradley Award for his 28 years of service to California’s citizens, fish and wildlife. Established to honor the first United States wildlife law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in Florida in 1905, the Guy Bradley Award seeks to recognize extraordinary individuals who have made an outstanding lifetime contribution to wildlife law enforcement, wildlife forensics or investigative techniques.

The award was presented to Baker at a ceremony held in Seaside in front of half the state’s wildlife officers. Baker was chosen from a list of extraordinary nominees from across the country, and he is the first nominee from California to win the award.

To the 50 officers he directly supervises and the rest of the state’s law enforcement division, Baker is one of the most highly respected wildlife officers serving the people of California today. Baker spent the majority of his career in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where he developed a passion for catching poachers and for working in cooperation with fish and wildlife conservation organizations in the region for the betterment of fish, wildlife and the habitats on which they depend.

Baker also spearheaded an effort that began in the mid-2000s to quantify environmental impacts associated with illegal marijuana cultivation. He was one of the first law enforcement leaders to move beyond rooting out illegal and often dangerous marijuana operations and to commit the resources necessary to remediate the contaminated sites the growers left behind. Remediation of these sites has become common practice today among CDFW and allied law enforcement agencies.

Baker began his career with the department in 1987 as a student assistant and later attended the warden academy. After 28 years of wildlife law enforcement, Baker remains enthusiastic about going to work every day.

“I’ve got a few years left in my career,” he said. “I hope to continue to honor Guy Bradley’s memory and this very special award.”

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nations wildlife and habitats. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions. NFWF works with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find solutions for the most complex conservation challenges. Over the last three decades, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.9 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (530) 523-6720
Rob Blumenthal, NFWF, Communications, (202) 595-2457

California Rifle and Pistol Association Honors CDFW Assistant Chief Roy Griffith as Wildlife Officer of the Year

Asst. Chief Roy Griffith is honored by the California Rifle and Pistol Association
Asst. Chief Roy Griffith is honored by the California Rifle and Pistol Association

Since 2004, recently promoted Assistant Chief Roy Griffith of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has worked tirelessly to recruit and train new hunter education instructors from throughout California. During his 11 years as captain of California’s Hunter Education Program, the number of certified instructors rose from 300 to more than 1,000. The California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) recently recognized these efforts by naming him as their 2014 Wildlife Officer of the Year.

Griffith began his wildlife officer career with CDFW in 1990, working in Southern California’s Chino District. He conducted extensive undercover operations as a member of the Special Operations Unit before changing his focus to the enforcement of laws related to habitat destruction. But he is best known for his role as captain of the Hunter Education Program, where his multi-generational approach and passion for “passing on the tradition” are evident to all who have worked with him.

When Griffith took the position of captain, California was experiencing a dramatic decline in the number of hunter education instructors. Griffith stepped up recruitment efforts, putting a special emphasis on bilingual outreach in order to reach prospective hunters who do not speak English as their first language. Now as Assistant Chief, Griffith continues to oversee the Hunter Education Program as part of his overall duties.

The all-volunteer cadre of hunter education instructors forms the framework for CDFW’s efforts to promote safe and ethical hunting to the next generation. The program includes annual re-certification of all 1,000 hunter education instructors. During the recertification, they learn the most current hunting and firearm safety training standards aligned with the state’s wildlife conservation needs and principles.

Hunter education instructors often volunteer for CDFW in many non-hunter education related venues, such as outdoor sporting shows, community events and anywhere else CDFW staff needs a hand.

Part of CRPA’s mission is to ensure proper management and respect for our state’s wildlife resources and to encourage public education concerning these resources. CRPA has regularly supported wildlife conservation, wildlife officers and hunting and firearms safety training statewide.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

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

Poachers Take Advantage of Drought Conditions to Target Juvenile Salmon

California wildlife officers patrolling the Sacramento River recently cited six suspects for unlawfully taking and possessing juvenile salmon, and using the young fish as bait to target sturgeon. All of the suspects initially denied use of salmon as bait, but wildlife officers were able to reel in their lines and show them the dead salmon on their hooks.

The alleged poachers worked during the early morning hours under the cover of darkness and focused their effort on sandbars on the Sacramento River in Yolo and Sacramento counties. The sandbars were recently exposed due to drought conditions. Wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Delta Bay Enhanced Enforcement Project (DBEEP), Special Operations Unit (SOU) and local squads continue to use the Governor’s drought overtime support to step up patrols in these sensitive areas to protect salmon and sturgeon from poachers.

In the first case, a wildlife officer observed two subjects wading in the Sacramento River and using a large net to capture juvenile salmon near a sandbar created by the low flow conditions. They netted the small salmon for later use as bait to fish for sturgeon. The wildlife officer ultimately determined that the two anglers and one more fisherman used fishing rods baited with the juvenile salmon they’d caught. Tony Saetern, 25, Michael Anglero, 24, and Kao Saeyang, 28, all of Sacramento, were each cited for unlawful use of salmon as bait and unlawful possession of salmon out of season.

A few nights later, wildlife officers observed a suspect using a hand light and dip net to unlawfully capture and keep multiple juvenile salmon in the same area of the Sacramento River. The officers watched as a total of three suspects in the group appeared to use the salmon as bait for fishing. Officers contacted the suspects and found two of them in possession of fishing rods with hooks baited with the salmon. As the officers were conducting the investigation, a sturgeon was hooked on another fishing rod belonging to the group, was landed and released. Officers found the group in possession of a Snapple beverage bottle containing 14 additional juvenile salmon for later use as bait.

Nai Poo Saechao, 36, of Antelope and Lai C Saechao, 27, of Sacramento, were both cited for unlawful use of salmon as bait, possession of salmon out of season and an overlimit of salmon. Vincent Sai Poo Saechao, 23, of Antelope, was cited for unlawful method of take of salmon.

“During this time of year, juvenile salmon are migrating downstream to the Delta and are vulnerable to this type of poaching as they seek shelter from prey fish close to shore,” DBEEP Warden Byron Trunnell explained. “Salmon season is closed on the Sacramento River, and nets are not an authorized method of take for game fish in inland waters.”

The unlawful practice of catching juvenile salmon for bait has long been a concern and is an enforcement priority this time of year. Poaching pressure on salmon is particularly harmful now, given California’s current drought situation. CDFW and numerous other agencies on both the state and federal levels are taking action wherever possible to support the long-term viability of salmon populations of the Sacramento River watershed.

CDFW appreciates legitimate anglers and asks for the public’s help in apprehending those who are taking advantage of our natural resources. Illegal activity can be reported through the CDFW Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) line at 888-334-2258, or via email or text (please see www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.aspx for details).

Media Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095CDFW Wildlife Officer (2)

CDFW Eastern Sierra Wardens to Conduct Wildlife Checkpoint

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will be conducting a wildlife checkpoint operation in in the Eastern Sierra in late April to promote safety, education and compliance with laws and regulations.

CDFW wildlife officers will be conducting the inspection on westbound Highway 108, north of Bridgeport, on Monday, April 27 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting.

The wildlife checkpoint is being conducted to protect and conserve fish and wildlife, and to encourage safety and sportsmanship by promoting voluntary compliance with laws, rules and regulations through education, preventative patrol and enforcement.

All anglers and hunters will be required to stop and submit to an inspection. CDFW officers will also be providing informative literature about the invasive quagga mussel and New Zealand Mudsnail.

Media Contacts:
Lt. Bill Dailey, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (760) 872-7360
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

State, Federal and French Wildlife Officers Work Together to Stop Illegal Import

A San Jose woman has been served with a fine, community service and probation for possession of several taxidermied protected wildlife specimens and attempting to import a taxidermied protected owl from France.

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Dora Martha Jimenez Zepeda, 42, of San Jose pled no contest to one count of violating Fish and Game Code, section 3503.5, unlawful possession of birds of prey, and forfeited several other taxidermied animals that are illegal to possess in California. The plea disposition also resulted in a $3,600 fine to be paid into the Santa Clara County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, 300 hours of community service and three years of probation.

“This is one of the most unusual cases we have seen in a while,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Assistant Chief Bob Farrell. “The international trafficking of protected species usually falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but since some of these animals were also protected under state law, it was a particularly complicated case. We appreciate the collaboration with our French and federal counterparts, as well as the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office, to bring this investigation to a close.”

In June 2014, CDFW law enforcement officers received a call through the CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters) line from a wildlife officer at the National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (the French National Hunting and Wildlife Office). The French officer had been investigating the unlawful sale of a barn owl (tyto alba) to a California buyer through eBay’s French website. The barn owl is a protected species in France.

After several months of investigation, CDFW wildlife officers, along with officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), located the suspect at her residence in San Jose.  Inside the one-bedroom apartment, officers found more than 50 stuffed and mounted animals, including a full-bodied African lion. Officers seized three species of hawk, two Western screech owls, one long-eared owl, two barn owls, one egret and one sea turtle, all prohibited species to possess.  She was allowed to keep the other mounts not prohibited by state or federal law.

The suspect stated she purchased most of her taxidermy from eBay and denied having killed any of the wildlife herself.

Nongame migratory birds such as birds of prey are protected under both California law and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Sea turtles are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act and internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CalTIP is a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide CDFW with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, please call 1-888-334-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Tipsters can also text anonymous information, including photographs, to the CalTIP program via “tip411” (numerically, 847411). Wildlife officers can respond directly, resulting in an anonymous two-way conversation.

Media Contacts:
Capt. Don Kelly, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (831) 229-0903
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

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