Tag Archives: wardens

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

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

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

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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CDFW Offers Basic Hunter Education Class in Bishop

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) law enforcement officers from Inyo and Mono counties will be teaching a basic hunter Today's Hunter booklet and regulations bookletseducation class for people who would like to complete the requirements to purchase a first-time hunting license. The class will be held on Tuesday, March 13, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Bishop Fire Training Center, 960 Poleta Road in Bishop.

Successful completion of an online study course, available at www.huntercourse.com/usa/california/, is a prerequisite for the four-hour class. The online course can be completed at any time before March 13. Upon completion, the online program will generate a printable voucher that must be presented at the March 13 course. The online course may take up to six hours to complete, but does not need to be finished in one sitting. A fee of $24.95 will be charged only when a student successfully answers a series of multiple-choice questions and prints the voucher.

The four-hour follow-up class on March 13 will consist of two hours of review, one hour of gun-handling practice and one hour to take the final hunter education test. Those interested in taking the class in Bishop should reserve a seat by calling CDFW Warden Shane Dishion at (760) 920-7593.

A list of follow-up classes in other counties can be found on the CDFW website at www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/classes-home-study.aspx.

In a continued effort to reduce firearm accidents, the State of California requires all first-time resident hunters, regardless of age, to complete hunter education training or pass a comprehensive equivalency test before purchasing a hunting license. CDFW conducts training throughout the state. Each year approximately 30,000 students complete the required training to earn their Hunter Education Certificate.

Media Contacts:
Warden Shane Dishion, CDFW Law Enforcement, (760) 920-7593

Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

Anglers Urged to Return Overdue 2014 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding sturgeon anglers to return their 2014 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards as required by law. Although the deadline to report their catch was Jan. 31, so far only about 9,000 (or 18 percent) of the 49,263 report cards sold have been returned. The sport fishing regulations require that all sturgeon anglers return their Report Cards, even the sturgeon anglers who did not encounter sturgeon and who did not fish for white sturgeon.

Without the data gleaned from the late report cards, CDFW’s scientific understanding of the white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations is incomplete. This makes it harder for scientists to recognize possible overfishing of the diminished white sturgeon population and to document accidental catch of the threatened green sturgeon. In this case, addressing the uncertainty could mean new harvest restrictions.

“Anglers who return their cards are providing data that is otherwise unavailable and it’s very good data.  They are also helping to protect the white sturgeon fishery and rebuild both sturgeon populations.  Anglers who do not return report cards are complicating those efforts,” said Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Program Manager. “We’re asking anglers to send the information to us now, even though the deadline has passed. It’s truly better late than never.”

Anglers can return the overdue report cards by mail to the address printed on the card or use the CDFW website at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Fishing – 758846-harvest-reporting

White sturgeon and green sturgeon are anadromous, meaning they move from the salt and brackish water to spawn in freshwater. They are both native California species and can live to be more than 100 years old.  California’s white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations were substantially reduced by commercial fishing in the 19th century and the recreational and commercial sturgeon fisheries were (with minor exceptions) closed from 1901 through 1953. Only recreational fishing for sturgeon has been allowed since 1954, and that fishery has become increasingly restricted over time in an effort to rebuild the populations and protect the fishery.

Media Contact:
Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Program Manager, (209) 234-3486
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Inyo County Man Arrested, Charged with Poaching Deer

Media Contacts:
Lt. Bill Dailey, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (661) 203-6380
Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095

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Tracking dog Sieger helped wildlife officers locate a poached trophy deer.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers arrested a poacher today in Inyo County for allegedly illegally killing a trophy 3×3 deer in the G-3 zone. Joseph Eugene Bragdon, 37, of Bishop was taken into custody without incident at his workplace after a $15,000 arrest warrant was issued by the Inyo County District Attorney’s Office.

“We are grateful to the Inyo County DA’s Office for recognizing the importance of resource protection and that wildlife poaching is a serious crime,” said Lt. Bill Dailey of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “Ethical hunters prize the G-3 tag for the incredible landscape and quantity of large deer. With only 35 tags issued every year, hunters can apply for years and never draw this zone.”

CDFW wildlife officers received a tip, through the CalTIP hotline, that on Nov. 1 Bragdon took his juvenile son to Division Creek in the trophy G-3 hunting zone and killed a large mule deer buck using a D-7 deer zone tag. With the assistance of the investigating warden’s tracking dog, Sieger, they located a dead deer with only the antlers and part of the edible meat removed. Most of the animal was left to waste.

Poaching a deer, cutting the head off and wasting edible meat is illegal and an egregious violation of ethical hunting standards. Wildlife officers took DNA samples and seized ballistic evidence.

The G-3 deer season runs only from Dec. 6-21. This area is considered a trophy deer hunt when high country mule deer bucks enter the area to escape the high country winter storms.

In November 2012, Bragdon was convicted of two misdemeanor hunting violations in Nevada, including hunting big game in a closed season and hunting big game without a tag. He was fined and had demerit points added to his Nevada hunting license.

Bragdon faces possible charges for several violations of the Fish and Game Code, including taking a deer without a license, tag or permit, failure to fill out tags, waste of game, failure to have a tag in possession and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. If convicted, Bragdon could face revocation of his hunting license, fines, probation and/or jail time.

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. Ethical hunters and anglers are the most common contributors to the CalTIP hotline. The toll-free hotline number is (888) 334-2258.

Tracking dog Sieger is a candidate for the next cycle of certification training for CDFW’s exceptional team of Warden K-9s.

CDFW and Partners Raid Santa Cruz County Marijuana Grow

Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and other agencies arrested two suspects, cut down marijuana plants and removed hazardous materials from a Santa Cruz county waterway on July 15.

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Acting on an anonymous tip on the CalTIP line, wildlife officers — with assistance from CAL FIRE, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department and Santa Cruz County Code Enforcement — raided an illegal marijuana cultivation site in the upper reaches of the south fork of Vicente Creek off Robles Drive near Bonny Doon. The site had been set up on private property without the landowner’s permission and was diverting water from the creek.

Officers arrested two male suspects and cut down and removed 180 fully mature marijuana plants with an approximate value of $360,000. Officers also found and removed several pounds of hashish, fertilizer, dozens of butane canisters used to manufacture concentrated cannabis, and other harmful materials that cause direct damage to the environment of Vicente Creek. CDFW officers conducted a full reclamation of the site.

“These marijuana cultivation sites are not only illegal but the trash left behind causes tremendous damage to the environment,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Brian Naslund. “Our officers are working hard around the state to find and remove these cultivation sites, keep harmful chemicals from entering state waters and ensure public safety.”

Marijuana cultivation is becoming an increasing problem in California as the historic drought wears on.

“Illegal marijuana growers steal substantial amounts of water, exacerbating our severe drought conditions,” said Naslund. “Marijuana plants use six to eight gallons of water per plant, per day, and are a direct hazard to wildlife that eats the plants.”

Law enforcement officials are also concerned that that hikers and walkers could be in danger if they accidentally come across a marijuana cultivation site. Illegal growers often carry weapons.

The suspects were taken into custody and will be charged with multiple violations including streambed alteration, pollution and placement of hazardous materials on the property of another.

The lower Vicente Creek is the southernmost salmon stream in California. It is a historic waterway that supports both anadromous steelhead and endangered Central Coast Coho salmon.

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. 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-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Media Contact:
Lt. John Nores, CDFW Enforcement, (408) 591-5174
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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CDFW To Hold Public Workshop on Lead Bullet Ban Implementation

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public workshop Saturday, July 19 to discuss the implementation of the lead bullet ban. The workshop will be held at the Community Room at City Hall, 777 Cypress Ave. in Redding from 7-8:30p.m.

A CDFW representative will detail a proposed implementation plan, the PowerPoint is available on the CDFW website. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Sacramento in September.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 711 requiring that the Commission adopt a regulation to ban lead ammunition in the state no later than July 1, 2015, with full implementation of the ban to occur no later than July 1, 2019. Governor Brown has directed CDFW and the Commission to work with all interested parties in order to produce a regulation that is least disruptive to the hunting community.

In order to determine what is least disruptive to hunters, CDFW has been reaching out to interested parties this year in a number of ways, including question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, meetings with hunting organizations and now a series of public workshops throughout the state. A public workshop was held in Ventura in April and in Eureka in June. After Redding, planning is underway for workshops later this year in Rancho Cordova (Sacramento area), San Diego, Fresno and Riverside/San Bernardino. In addition, individuals and organizations may email comments to wildlifemgmt@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Nonlead implementation” in the subject line) or mail hard copy correspondence to:

CDFW, Wildlife Branch
Attn: Nonlead implementation
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Mishele Echelberger, CDFW Northern Region, (530) 225-2313