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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

###

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

 

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).

###

Media Contacts:
Capt. Todd Tognazzini, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (805) 610-3916
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.

###

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

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

lobster and gauge

Opening Weekend of Lobster Season Keeps Southern California Wildlife Officers Busy

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

###

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

Succulent Plant Poachers Convicted in Humboldt County

Three defendants in a succulent plant poaching case out of Humboldt County have each pled guilty to two felonies and other misdemeanor charges, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office announced. Felony convictions included conspiracy and false filings with the government, and misdemeanor convictions included removal of plant material from public lands and commercial sales of plants removed from public lands.

The succulent plants at the center of the investigation are called Dudleyas. They grow in unique niches close to the coastline, typically on cliffsides immediately adjacent to the water. The poachers had a network of buyers in Korea and China, where Dudleya are valued as a trendy houseplant.

Removal of Dudleya, or any vegetation in sensitive habitat, can result in environmental degradation of habitat and a destabilization of bluffs and cliffs on the coastline. Some Dudleya species are rare or at risk of extinction.

Wildlife officers worked extensively with allied law enforcement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Postal Service inspectors to track down and collect evidence of poaching the succulent plants for sale overseas. During the investigation, wildlife officers witnessed the three removing plants from coastal bluffs in the Humboldt Lagoons State Park. On April 4, officers found the trio in possession of 2,300 Dudleya plants and more than $10,200 in cash.

All three defendants were foreign nationals. Liu Fengxia, 37, of China, and Tae-Hun Kim, 52, and Tae-Hyun Kim, 46, both from Korea, were handed a sentence of three years and eight months in state prison and a $10,000 fine each. Judge John T. Feeney suspended the prison sentences with the conditions that the defendants are prohibited from entering the United States without prior authorization of the federal government and state courts, and prohibited from entering any local, state or national park.

In addition to the fines, the defendants will also forfeit the $10,200 to CDFW as restitution. These funds will be used specifically for the conservation of Dudleya on public lands in Humboldt County.

“Together with prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, we hope this conviction and sentencing will send a message to those who may consider poaching California’s precious natural resources to sell overseas for personal profit,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement.

The case developed from a tip from 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 Contact:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 322-8911