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
Officers Livesay, Cushing and Investigator Goley worked a night-hunting detail in conjunction with conservation officers with the Alabama Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The officers were positioned on both sides of the state line in an area where reports of poaching were occurring. During the detail, two juveniles were arrested by Alabama DNR officers for attempting to take deer with a gun and light.
Officer Arnette inspected a large amount of trash discarded in the Yellow River Wildlife Management Area. Using the evidence at the scene, Officer Arnette revealed possible suspects. An interview with a suspect revealed his involvement with the trash being dumped. The subject was issued a notice to appear for littering over 15 pounds.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Hutchinson was on patrol when he observed persons trying to put out a fire that had gotten out of control. He began assisting them as Officer Johnson responded to assist. The fire threatened to burn a large pile of hay bales the farmer had stacked up. Officer Hutchinson successfully used his winch bumper to push several bales out of the way preventing the fire from reaching the stack. The fire was eventually extinguished and the farmer was very appreciative of the officers’ assistance.
Officer Brooks located a concealed vessel along a creek bordering Nokuse Plantation after receiving information of subjects trespassing. Officer Brooks tracked two subjects from the vessel and located them hunting. One of the subjects had been warned previously for trespassing on the property. Both subjects were in possession of rifles. They were placed under arrest and booked into the Walton County Jail for felony trespass. A records check revealed one of the subjects had a felony conviction and should not possess a firearm.
Lieutenant Hollinhead stopped a vehicle in a field after observing a light being displayed in a manner capable of disclosing the presence of deer. The two subjects in the vehicle were in possession of a spotlight and rifle they were using. They had shot the rifle twice before they were stopped. An interview revealed the subjects had shot at an alligator in a pond on the property. The subjects were cited for attempting to take an alligator and attempting to take a deer with a gun and light.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officers Lasher and Troiano were on night-hunting patrol in Alachua County when they heard a gunshot a short distance from their location. When they arrived at the location of the shot, the officers hid their vehicles off the highway. A short time later, Officer Troiano observed a pickup driving slowly and using its headlights to illuminate the ditches. When the truck got closer to the officer’s position he could see two individuals in the bed of the pickup truck and one appeared to be holding a rifle. A stop was made on the individuals who admitted to looking for deer to shoot. Evidence was collected and charges were filed for attempting to take deer at night with a gun and light.
Officer Lasher received information in reference to a doe deer that was killed in a hunt club in southern Alachua County. The subject was identified by witnesses. Lieutenant Ferguson and Officer Lasher located the subject and conducted an interview. The subject admitted to taking a doe deer and admitted the location where he discarded the head and hide. He also stated he threw all the meat in the garbage. The evidence was located and collected. Charges were filed for taking antlerless deer out of season as well as wanton willful waste of wildlife.
Lieutenant Ferguson and Office Bembry received information from the University of Florida Police that several alligator hides were being cured behind a fraternity on campus. One hide had a CITES tag and the other hide had no tag. After arriving and receiving a statement from one of the fraternity members, charges will be filed at the Alachua State Attorney’s Office for taking an untagged alligator.
Investigator Barrow and Officer Wiggins worked a case involving a deer that had been taken from private property in Dixie County. The officers followed the tire tracks from the kill site to a residence approximately one mile away. At the residence, a freshly killed doe deer was discovered lying on the tailgate of a truck in the yard. After talking with the owner of the truck, he stated that they had a party there the prior night and admitted that the deer belonged to him. One misdemeanor charge of possession of antlerless deer out of season will be direct-filed with the Dixie County State Attorney’s Office. Another individual was implicated in the taking of the deer and officers will continue with the investigation to determine if the information is reliable.
Lieutenant Williams, Investigator Ayers and Officer Butler responded to information that an illegal doe deer had been killed in a Dixie County Hunt Club. Upon their arrival, Officer Butler was able to locate the two suspects in the hunt club. During interviews both subjects admitted to their involvement with the doe deer. Officer Butler issued citations for illegal taking of doe deer and illegal possession of doe deer. The doe carcass and meat were seized for evidence.
Lieutenant Arkin initiated a traffic stop on an old Florida Highway Patrol vehicle bearing a Florida dealer’s tag. After running the tag and obtaining information through National Crime Information Center and Florida Crime Information Center (NCIC/FCIC), the tag had been reported stolen. Lieutenant Arkin asked the driver for his driver’s license and the driver stated that it was suspended for owing child support. In actuality, it was suspended or cancelled indefinitely in 2009 for failure to comply with driving school requirements. The driver also had an active warrant issued out of Nassau County for failure to appear in reference to driving while license suspended/revoked (DWLSR). The passenger is the owner of a used car lot in Jacksonville and stated that his wife reported one of the tags stolen from their business, but reported the wrong tag as stolen. Lieutenant Arkin notified the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office so that the passenger could work out the issue with the incorrect tag being reported as stolen. Lieutenant Arkin issued the driver a notice to appear for DWLSR with knowledge. Officer Schirbock placed the driver under arrest in compliance with the warrant and transported him to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Arkin, Officers Shearer, Schirbock and Patrolman Holmquist with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office provided law enforcement presence on vessel patrol during the Julington Creek Christmas Lighting Boat Parade. There were hundreds of spectators and approximately 60 vessels lit up and decorated with Christmas lights.
Officer Sweat saw a man walking from Simpson Creek at State Road A1A in Talbot State Park with a blue cooler. Upon inspection, Officer Sweat discovered that the fisherman was in possession of two undersized spotted sea trout and four undersized black drum. One citation was issued along with five warnings.
In reference to a previous illegal killing of alligator case, two of the three defendants have pled to the felony charges. The plea consisted of 36 months probation with the option for early termination after half of the special conditions were met and in good standing, as well as no new law violations, $878.40 cost of investigation to FWC, defendant is not to hunt/poach alligator, must forfeit the CITES tag and is not to apply for/or obtain any such tag/permit while on probation. The defendant shall forfeit/surrender all license(s) issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and will not obtain any such license while on probation, provide 100 hours community service with no buyout at a minimum rate of 5 hours per month, $500.00 fine, forfeit all items seized by FWC to FWC, and fingerprints. The defendant agrees to testify truthfully against co-defendants if called to do so.
Officers Horst and Kearney were dispatched to an area on the Indian River in Palm Bay in reference to shots being fired. Upon arrival on scene, they made contact with three subjects loading a canoe into a truck. Three shotguns could be seen inside the vehicle. Upon inspection, the subjects were found to be in possession of two mottled ducks out of season. Two of the subjects admitted to taking the ducks and each received a citation for the violation.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
Officer Boyer was on land patrol when he was dispatched to the Fellsmere Small Game Area 1 due to individuals who were hunting in a closed area. Upon arriving to the area, Officer Horst met with Officer Boyer to assist in locating the individuals. After hearing gunshots, the individuals were spotted hunting in the closed area south of Fellsmere Small Game Area 1. After making contact with the individuals, it was evident that the hunters had taken ducks as well as two greater yellowlegs, a prohibited species. The hunters were cited appropriately for hunting in a closed area and violation of the migratory bird treaty act. The birds were then returned to the resources.
Officer Rutherford was on water patrol at Sebastian Inlet State Park with two applicant ride-alongs (observers) aboard his vessel. He received a call from dispatch that a vessel was adrift and heading out the Sebastian Inlet during an outgoing tide with one person on board. The person had no control of the vessel and was headed toward rough seas east of the A1A Bridge between the jetties. While drifting between the jetties, waves washed over the vessel causing it to capsize which resulted in the occupant entering the water. Upon Officer Rutherford’s arrival, he observed the occupant with no life jacket holding onto a rope that was attached to the vessel. He told the subject to let go of the vessel and to swim to his patrol vessel. The subject did not understand English. Officer Rutherford began removing his duty belt and getting ready to enter the water. At that time, one of his observers, Harry Balgo, entered the water. Officer Rutherford passed him a pocket knife and type IV throwable buoy ring. Mr. Balgo cut the subject loose and Officer Rutherford pulled both subjects onto his patrol vessel. The other observer, Richard Marroquin, helped Officer Rutherford pull the subject into his patrol vessel. Officer Rutherford gave the subject his duty jacket to help keep him warm and prevent any chance of hypothermia. Indian River County Emergency Medical Services arrived on scene and met them at the T-Dock of Sebastian Inlet State Park. The subject was turned over to EMS for evaluation and later released.
Officer Arendas was dispatched to a home where the homeowner had reportedly caught a fawn deer and brought it into the home. Once at the home, Officer Arendas could hear the sound of a young deer making a distress call from inside the house. It took approximately ten minutes for the homeowner to answer the front door. Officer Arendas introduced himself and explained why he was there and told the homeowner to show him the deer. The deer was tied up on the garage floor. Officer Arendas photographed it then untied it and let it go. Officer Arendas issued a citation for possession of a spotted fawn.
Investigator Trusley and Officer Scrambling observed a vehicle parked on the shoulder of SR 441 that appeared to be disabled. The officers stopped to check on the vehicle and occupants and the passenger immediately exited the vehicle. Upon making contact with the driver, the officers observed the strong odor of cannabis coming from the vehicle. The subsequent investigation revealed that the driver was in possession of cannabis less than 20 grams as well as paraphernalia, and the passenger was in possession of what appeared to be a meth pipe. The subjects were issued notices to appear for the violations, and all contraband was seized. Later, while submitting the contraband into evidence, the officers found that the meth pipe tested positive for methamphetamines. The officers are meeting with the State Attorney this week to further address the violation.
Officer Malicoat responded to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Ponce Station to assist them with a possible boating under the influence (BUI) incident in the New Smyrna Beach area. The USCG personnel had stopped a recreational vessel with an adult male on board who had been reported to be operating his vessel in an unsafe manner. The USCG stopped the vessel and requested the operator to perform breath alcohol tests. Based on those observations, Malicoat arrested the operator for BUI and took him to the Volusia Sheriff’s District’s office for him to provide a breath sample. His results were a .257% and he was transported to the Volusia Branch Jail.
Resource Protection Officer Meurlot conducted surveillance on an adult male believed to be poaching fish near the south causeway in New Smyrna Beach. When contacted, the subject was found to be in possession of 56 sheepshead fish (26 of those were under the legally allowed size limit and the daily bag limit is 15), 3 black drum under the legally allowed size limit, 3 mangrove snapper under the legally allowed size limit, and 1 sea bass under the legally allowed size limit. He was issued three misdemeanor criminal charges with notices to appear in court.
Officer Martinez and Stephens performed a fisheries inspection on a commercial vessel in south Pasco County. Upon completion of their inspection, they found that the captain of the fishing vessel was in possession of an unmarked monofilament entanglement net. The captain of the vessel was charged with a felony, taken into custody and the illegal net was seized.
Officer Martinez, Investigator Dallarosa and Lieutenants Burton and Hinds IV were working illegal fishing activities in north Pinellas County. A stop was made on a commercial fishing vessel preparing to use monofilament entangling nets in state waters. Two subjects were cited for numerous felony charges pertaining to the illegal possession of the entanglement net. The subjects were taken to jail and the nets seized.
Officers Salem and Perry were on water patrol near Cayo Costa State Park when they observed a commercial fishing vessel deploy several nets, attempting to harvest mullet. The officers conducted a boating safety and resource inspection and discovered that the nets had been altered. The nets had been intentionally cut to increase the mesh size, making them illegal gill nets pursuant to Florida rules. The nets were seized for evidence and are subject forfeiture. The fisherman was cited for the violations and released.
Officer McColgin was working plain clothes when he observed a man filleting some fish at a marina. When he got closer, he saw that the fish were undersized red grouper. He asked the man if he had caught the fish. The man said his friend had caught them all. After identifying himself, Officer McColgin located a second subject who admitted to catching all the fish and that he knew all the fish were undersized. The man was issued a misdemeanor citation for possession of undersized red grouper and the fish were returned to the environment.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Ryan was conducting a fisheries inspection at the 39th Street spillway in Lauderhill when he observed a 19” snook in a cooler that none of the three individuals fishing would claim. The legal size limit for snook is a slot limit of 28 to 32 inches. They were each interviewed separately and one of the subjects eventually admitted to the violation. The subject was cited for undersized snook, and warned for no fishing license/snook stamp.
While working at night in Hendry County, Officer McLendon heard three shots from a nearby road. He headed in the direction of the shots and witnessed a vehicle parked on the roadway. After stopping close by, Officer McLendon heard three additional shots fired from the vehicle. Two subjects were in possession of a .22 caliber long rifle and a shotgun loaded with buckshot. Several deer were standing in the nearby field and both subjects were charged for hunting from a county maintained roadway.
Officer Taylor received a call about a vehicle accident involving a bear in Southern Hendry County on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Officer Taylor arrived on scene to learn that a large black bear was in the roadway and was struck by a vehicle and killed. The driver of the vehicle stopped to check the damage to the vehicle and to check on the bear. Three additional vehicles stopped to offer assistance to the driver. Another vehicle, traveling in the opposite direction, then hit the first vehicle and began to flip where it veered off the shoulder of the road and struck some of the good Samaritans. Unfortunately, three of them lost their lives in the accident. Officer Taylor assisted Seminole Police Traffic Homicide with the investigation and later took possession of the bear and transported it to a local bear biologist for study.
Officer Taylor was on patrol in Hendry County in the early morning hours when he received a call in reference to shots being fired on a rural road from a vehicle. Officer Taylor observed the vehicle on a rural road being operated in a suspicious manner and the complainant confirmed that it was the same vehicle. As Officer Taylor watched, he observed the vehicle occupants begin shining a spotlight into the woods and turning around multiple times. After approximately 30 minutes of surveillance, Officer Taylor conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle and found the occupants to be in possession of a freshly killed short-horned buck, spot light, and a .30-06 rifle. The subjects were subsequently arrested on charges of taking deer at night by gun and light, taking antlerless deer (less than 5 inch antlers), and hunting from a county maintained roadway.
K-9 Officer Lilley observed a subject on a bicycle wearing a back pack leaving a business parking lot at approximately 2:00 am. The subject did not have lights on his bicycle, so Officer Lilley stopped him on the side of a busy highway. A short investigation found the subject was in possession of a pellet gun pistol that had been spray painted to mimic a real pistol and that the subject was a juvenile who had run away from home. A records check of the juvenile found that he had previously been Baker Acted. The subject was taken back to his home and his parents were advised of the situation and the dangers of him carrying the pellet gun.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Nasworth and Mclendon were dispatched to a boating accident that had just occurred on Lake Okeechobee. Officers Nasworth and Mclendon responded to the Pahokee Marina campground were they made contact with the operator. The operator advised that while fishing a wave came over the back and swamped his boat causing it to capsize. The operator advised that he didn’t receive any injuries and that the damage is less than $2,000. Officer Nasworth provided the operator with a boating accident self report form.
SOUTH REGION B
Officers Harris, Miller, and Reith were on Federal water patrol 20 miles west of Gordon Pass. The officers stopped a commercial vessel actively fishing for king mackerel. Upon further inspection, they found that the captain of the vessel did not possess a valid Saltwater Products License. The officers followed the vessel back to the dock; 703 pounds of king mackerel were seized and sold. The captain was issued a citation for the violation.
Officers Harris and Miller, along with FWC trapper Ray Simonsen, released a 10-foot female crocodile at the end of the Black Water River on Coon Key. The crocodile was found within the Lakewood Country Club community in good health and weighed 262 pounds. This was her first time being captured and she was subsequently tagged.
An officer was on land patrol when he stopped to conduct a fisheries inspection at a bayside location on Venetian Causeway. The lone subject was found to be in possession of twenty-four mangrove snappers, twenty-three of which were undersized. The subject was cited for the over-the-limit and undersized violations.
Lieutenant Haney and Officer Hein were on water patrol in the upper Keys when they saw a recreational boat pulling lobster traps. They conducted a fisheries inspection and discovered that the captain was using illegal lobster traps and he was found to have more than the allotted number of stone crab traps. Also, the captain was found to be in possession of undersized lobster. The captain was cited accordingly.
Officer Robb was conducting fisheries inspections on the No Name Bridge when he encountered a group of fishermen that were actively fishing. He asked one of the fishermen about his catch and the fisherman responded that he was in possession of a snook that he caught earlier in the day. Once Officer Robb inspected the fish and confirmed that it was indeed a snook, he cited the subject for being in possession of a snook during the closed season.
Officer Hein assisted the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in conducting a sobriety checkpoint to battle impaired driving in Key Largo. Officer Hein was one of the contact officers screening the drivers passing through the checkpoint for sobriety. A vehicle attempting to pass through the checkpoint was screened by Officer Hein and he detected a strong smell of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. After searching the occupants, he found one of the occupants of the vehicle to be in possession of drug paraphernalia and in possession of marijuana less than 20 grams.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Williams and Officers Futch, Reams, Reith and Tolbert patrolled Collier-Seminole State Park to ensure public safety and maintain crowd control during the “Drop-It-Can-Ya-3 Music & Art Festival.” More than thirty (30) bands and DJ’s performed during the three (3) day event.
Officers Futch and Tolbert represented FWC during the “Swamp Heritage Festival,” which is an annual event at the Big Cypress National Preserve. The officers’ display table and boards provided informational brochures and photographs of various fish and wildlife species. They also included “Ranger,” a mounted Florida panther to the display. In addition to providing hunting and fishing regulations, the officers included employment / recruitment materials. The officers provided information and education to approximately 150 festival attendees.