This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week; however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.
Patrol, Protect, Preserve
The FWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Logo. Photo: myfwc.com
The FWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Logo. Photo: myfwc.com
Officer N. Basford was checking park passes at the entrance to St. Andrews State Park and made contact with three subjects in a vehicle entering the park. She could smell the odor of burnt cannabis emanating from the interior of the vehicle. She asked the operator if there was anything in the vehicle she should know about, advising the operator that she could smell the cannabis. The operator produced a glass smoking pipe with residue in it. Officer Basford searched the vehicle and found no other drugs. The operator was issued a notice to appear for drug paraphernalia.
Officer Palmer received a complaint concerning a deer that had been taken illegally from a private lease. Officer Palmer responded and found footprints (two sets of tennis shoes) and evidence of something being dragged out. Lieutenant Chesser arrived to assist and a gentleman at a nearby trailer was asked if he had seen anybody leaving the lease or if he had heard any gunshots the previous day. The man said he had heard a few shots he thought were from a small caliber rifle and later saw two teenagers exit the woods down the road. A small neighborhood was located adjacent to the lease and Lieutenant Chesser and Officer Palmer began checking the area for any clues. One trailer was located and an individual was asked if he knew anything about the incident. He confessed to killing a deer. The deer meat was located and antlers were seized. The violators had been squirrel hunting when they jumped the deer, shot it, and drug it back to their home. Citations for trespassing and illegal method of take were issued due to it being archery season.
Officer Forehand was on patrol in the early morning hours when he observed four subjects each using a handheld light out in a cultivated peanut field searching the area as if looking for something. Officer Forehand conducted surveillance on the subjects for a short time thinking they may be attempting to recover illegally harvested game and trespassing. After some time, the subjects returned to their vehicle and began to exit the field at which time Officer Forehand made contact with them. It was discovered that the subjects were trespassing in the cultivated field in an attempt to locate arrowheads and other artifacts. A search of their vehicle revealed four separate bags containing flint and other artifacts, several baggies containing methamphetamine, two glass smoking pipes and one metal smoking pipe, all containing methamphetamine residue. Two of the subjects were booked into the Jackson County Jail for possession of methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia. Trespass charges are pending.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Jones was on patrol in a closed area of the Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA). While driving a remote dirt road, he encountered two hunters who were armed with long guns during archery only season. Both subjects fled on foot. Officer Jones, who was alone at the time, captured one suspect. The 33‑year‑old male was charged with hunting in a closed area, using a firearm during archery season, interference with an FWC officer, as well as license violations. Eglin Range Patrol also suspended the suspect’s Eglin permit for three years. Officers Barnard, Rockwell, and K-9 Officer Pineda responded and assisted.
Officers Lewis and Ramos were on forest patrol in Blackwater River State Forest when they observed a bonfire and keg party in a clay pit. Officer Lewis found three subjects attempting to hide a keg in the woods surrounding the clay pit. While the officers were issuing citations to the partygoers, a vehicle drove into the clay pit in an attempt to join the party, not knowing the officers were there. The officers issued four misdemeanor citations for possession of alcoholic beverages by a person under 21 years of age and four citations for operating a vehicle off the established road in a state forest.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer Stanley was on land patrol when he observed four large bags of household garbage dumped on the side of the road. Officer Stanley went through the garbage and was able to find an address on several pieces of mail. Officer Stanley made contact with someone at the residence and was able to get a sworn written statement from the person admitting to the violation. The individual was charged with Littering.
Officers in Citrus County noticed that a local 4-trawl commercial shrimping vessel may have been operating in in-shore/near-shore waters, with 4 trawls in violation of Rule 68B-31.011(1)(d). Officers made several attempts to locate this vessel with negative results until officers on off-shore patrol (NC Fin cat) observed the target vessel operating inside the near-shore line using 4 trawls. The Captain was issued a misdemeanor citation for placing/using more than two trawls inside in-shore/near-shore waters.
Officer Justus responded to a request for assistance from the Clay County Sherriff’s Office. In the process of serving a search warrant on a residence in Clay County, deputies discovered multiple marijuana plants and a captive alligator located in a 55-gallon drum in the kitchen along with a cooler containing multiple alligator carcasses. Upon closer inspection, Officer Justus determined the owner of the residence possessed Alligator CITES tags for the alligator carcasses but failed to properly tag the alligators upon harvests, kill the captive live alligator immediately upon capture, and complete the alligator harvest reports within 24 hours of harvesting the alligators. The live alligator was seized and released back into the wild. Charges were filed with the Clay County State Attorney’s Office.
Lieutenant Arkin was on patrol of Mandarin Park Boat Ramp in Jacksonville when he observed a male subject walking around with an open container of beer. Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in Mandarin Park by city ordinance. Lieutenant Arkin made contact with the subject and informed him of the city ordinance. Lieutenant Arkin observed that the subject’s eyes had a glassy appearance and immediately detected the odor of cannabis on the subject’s clothing. Lieutenant Arkin asked the subject if he would empty his pockets. The subject emptied all of his pockets except his left jeans jacket pocket. When Lieutenant Arkin asked what the bulge was in the left jeans jacket pocket, the subject stated, “Please don’t take me to jail, just give me a ticket.” The subject turned over a green container that contained cannabis and a blue glass smoking pipe. The subject was issued a notice to appear in Duval County Court for possession of cannabis under 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officers Brown, Shearer, Schirbock, and McGregor responded to an anonymous complaint of a vessel shrimping in-shore using nets larger than 500 square feet in San Carlos Creek. The vessel was located and an inspection revealed that both shrimp nets measured 776 square feet each. The nets were seized and four misdemeanor citations were written to the captain of the vessel.
Officer Schirbock and his Field Training Officer were on land patrol crossing a bridge when they noticed a bird dog boat heading to a remote boat ramp. They met the boat at the ramp and noted that one deck hand was busy trying to spread a small amount of ice over a large amount of mullet. The deck of the boat was loaded with mullet and most of the fish had no ice on them. The captain of the vessel stated that they were in a hurry to get to market to sell the fish and had neglected to put ice on the fish. He was issued a citation for the quality control violation.
Officers Jenkins and Johnston responded to a call with reference to vandalism and possible equipment theft in Goethe State Forest. With assistance from the Levy County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit and Detective, the scene was processed for fingerprints and evidence left behind at the scene. The following week an anonymous caller stated that they overheard a conversation in reference to the subjects’ joyriding after hours in Goethe State Forest. With this information, Officers Jenkins and Johnston conducted an investigation that revealed six possible suspects involved during multiple trips to the forest. The investigation revealed theft/joyride of “Skidder,” diesel fuel from equipment trailer, a vehicle battery and a spare tire. The forest had dozens of trees destroyed and extensive damage to the roadway. Charges on the primary suspects are being filed with the State Attorney’s Office.
Around midnight, the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint of gun fire in a neighborhood with known whitetail deer poaching. The deputies responded and located an individual with a deer that was shot in another individual’s yard. Officer Dewesse responded and issued the suspect a notice to appear for the violations.
Investigator McMillan and Officer Wilcox wrapped up a case with the execution of a search warrant. The suspect was observed trespassing on two separate occasions with the aid of surveillance equipment. During the execution of the warrant, the Officers located illegally taken deer, the weapons used to harvest the deer and 38-grams of cannabis. The suspect was arrested for the violations and transported to the Taylor County Jail.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Griffis spoke at the Julian Barrs Community Center in Jacksonville. Officer Griffis spoke to approximately 16 young students all below the age of 10. Officer Griffis explained the objectives of the FWC and what an FWC Officer’s duties entail. Officer Griffis also shared with the children why we have laws protecting fish and wildlife resources and how important our natural resources are.
Officer Ransom conducted an enforcement detail on local WMAs during the opening week of general gun season. During his patrols in Lake George WMA, Officer Ransom encountered a hunter in possession of a doe deer. A citation was issued and the deer was seized. Officer Ransom also issued several citations and warnings for license, permit, closed road and hunter orange violations during the detail.
Officer Edson was on patrol in Lake George WMA, at night when he observed the driver of a truck, shine a spotlight on a clear cut in a manner capable of disclosing the presence of deer. Officer Edson followed the vehicle and stopped it just before it left the WMA. Officer Edson found a loaded 7mm rifle between the driver and passenger seat. The driver told Officer Edson, he was shining the light to look for frogs, but he knew if he got caught doing so with a rifle in his truck, he could “get in trouble”. The driver was cited for attempting to take deer at night with a gun and light. The rifle and spotlight were seized as evidence.
Officer Sweet received a tip that a suspicious vehicle entered a WMA during a closed hunting season. Officer Sweet located the suspected vehicle. He made contact with two subjects and noticed a deer in the back of the vehicle. Subjects confessed to killing the deer in the closed season area and showed Officer Sweet exactly where they killed it. Both were cited accordingly. Deer was seized and donated
Officer Weis received a call in the Ocala National Forest about a deer that was shot and killed illegally late Sunday night. Through his investigation he was able to find evidence at a local house where the deer was cleaned. He spoke to the resident and was told what happened. He then made contact with the shooter. The shooter advised he killed the doe deer at night. He then cleaned it at his mother’s house and took the deer home. The deer and shotgun were seized and the subject was cited for taking deer at night and shooting from a county road.
While on water patrol in the Indian River, Officer Horst made contact with two subjects who were fishing on a vessel under the 192 Causeway. He conducted a fisheries inspection that resulted in an undersized mangrove snapper, an undersized sheepshead, and 15 file fish (regulated as marine life) being discovered. One of the subjects was issued a resource citation for over the bag limit of marine life and given warnings for the other violations.
Investigator Trusley received a call from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) in reference to a man in possession of a doe deer. Once on scene, Investigator Trusley was able to easily determine that the deer was still very warm and had been killed recently. The investigation concluded that there was a second individual who had been dropped off in an effort to kill a second deer. The driver of the truck was booked into the Osceola County Jail on multiple charges. The OCSO located the second subject as he returned to his camp at Three Lakes WMA, after being picked up by another friend, and was issued a notice to appear for multiple charges. The gun, spot light and the deer were seized as evidence.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Horst and Kearney conducted an outreach at the Enchanted Forest Festival in Brevard County. The officers manned a display table for the duration of the event, handing out literature and answering numerous questions from attendees. The officers used the outreach as an opportunity to educate the public on boating safety, hunting and fishing regulations and safe interaction with Florida Wildlife. Event organizers estimated that approximately 300 people attended the event.
K-9 Officer Stasko and K-9 Pearson were working a detail in Babcock Webb WMA for the 9-day hunt. As Officer Stasko conducted inspections on hunters exiting the management area, he made contact with a subject that looked nervous. When asking if the subject had shot anything, he didn’t respond. An inspection revealed a short horned buck that the subject admitted shooting. The subject was issued a misdemeanor citation and the deer was seized.
Officer Hinds was patrolling a local lake in the Bradenton area when he noticed an individual fishing with a cast net. Officer Hinds approached the individual and asked to inspect his catch from the cast net. Upon inspection, Officer Hinds found three black bass and four blue gills in his cooler. The individual was issued a citation for taking freshwater game fish by illegal method.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
The FWC Investigator Cooke, K-9 Officers Stasko and Lilley participated in Career Day at Lemon Bay High School. They gave an agency overview presentation and an outdoor K-9 demo to four classes totaling 125 students. Students had time during the outreach to ask questions and interact with the K-9’s.
SOUTH REGION B
K-9 Officer Collazo participated in a multi-agency detail with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office focusing on Panther Zone speed enforcement. The detail coincided with the opening of general gun season in the Big Cypress WMA as well as the last race of the NASCAR season at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Officer Collazo wrote 4 traffic citations and 8 warnings for unlawful speeding.
Officers Pestka and Hunter have focused their patrol efforts on the two state parks within Miami-Dade County. As a result of their proactive patrols they have been instrumental in curtailing the vehicle burglaries and other crimes within the parks.
An officer and an Investigator were on land patrol at Black Point Marina when they observed two subjects fishing from the shoreline. A fisheries inspection revealed the subjects to be in possession of nineteen mangrove snappers, all of which were undersized. The two subjects were cited for the over-the-limit and undersized violations.
An Investigator on nighttime land patrol was driving on State Road 836 when he observed a vehicle towing a vessel/trailer without functional tail/brake lights. Additionally, the vehicle displayed an illuminated rear-facing spotlight that was blinding those drivers behind him. The investigator initiated a traffic stop to address the safety issues. While talking to the driver, the investigator asked him if he had caught any fish to which the driver replied yes. The investigator subsequently asked the driver for consent to inspect the catch and the driver agreed. The inspection revealed one undersized red grouper and one undersized mutton snapper for which the driver was cited.
Officers Conlin and Foell were on land patrol when they came across a van parked near mile marker 14 on Saddlebunch #3 Bridge. It wasn’t long before two men carrying dive equipment walked up to the van and began to load the equipment into the van. As the officers approached they saw the men attempting to conceal a 5-gallon bucket. The officers immediately secured the bucket and noticed that the bucket contained 3 whole stone crabs, 1 undersized spiny lobster and one spiny lobster of legal size. The officers also discovered a mesh dive bag containing 2 undersized spiny lobster in the nearby bushes. One of the men admitted to illegally harvesting the undersized lobster as well as taking the 3 whole stone crabs illegally. The subject was arrested and transported to the Monroe County Jail.
The crew of the Peter Gladding was patrolling the near shore waters of Key West when they came across a black aluminum boat not displaying a registration decal. The vessel was occupied by 2 men and 2 women. A subsequent fisheries inspection revealed 16 hogfish of which 14 were undersized. The two men on board were cited accordingly.
Officers Wagner, Hein, and Munkelt were conducting commercial fisheries inspections off of Conch Key when they conducted an inspection on a vessel. After a thorough inspection, the officers found 101 undersized spiny lobster onboard. The Captain of the vessel was cited.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
K-9 Officer Collazo and K-9 Jasmine performed a demonstration for the Pepper Ranch Youth Hunt in Immokalee. Officer Collazo presented an hour long presentation for a group of 15 people. He spoke about FWC’s K-9 Unit and their capabilities. During the demonstration, Officer Collazo had a youth throw a spent .223 bullet into the grassed area of an open field. Within 4 minutes K-9 Jasmine located the shell and was rewarded for her hard work. Both the children and the adults appeared very happy with the demonstration