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.
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 Johnson responded to an anonymous complaint regarding a subject hunting deer out of season near Gulf Power Road. The complainant advised that the subject had shot several times earlier that morning with a high-powered rifle. Officer Johnson followed drag marks to the suspect’s residence and observed several fresh deer legs. He also followed the blood trail leading to a deer-skinning rack hanging in a tree. A large puddle of blood was underneath the skinning rack. Officer Johnson asked the subject where the gun and deer meat was. The subject pointed out the meat in a large white cooler and stated the gun was in the house. The subject also admitted to taking two small bucks, a six-point and a one-antlered spike, with a Stevens 308. Upon further investigation, Officer Johnson discovered six potted marijuana plants and three mature plants up to nine feet in height. Captain Duval, Officer Forehand and one additional FWC officer arrived to assist. The subject was charged with taking deer during closed season. The subject was informed that the charges for the cultivation of marijuana would be filed through the State Attorney’s Office. The rifle, two deer, and marijuana were seized as evidence. The rifle was reported stolen from Wakulla County and Officer Johnson is continuing the investigation.
COPS – COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Maltais presented the laws portion for the Hunter Education Course held at the Okaloosa Correctional Institution. There were 42 students in the class. The volunteer staff was short on help, so Officer Maltais stayed as a course instructor and conducted range supervision.
A complaint was received from the president of a hunt lease who had captured a hunting dog after hearing shots on his lease. Baker and Union county officers responded. The officers heard a couple more shots and jumped two Sanderson men who fled on foot into the lease. Two FWC K-9 officers set out on two different tracks, leading to the apprehension of both suspects, their hidden guns, two deer, a doe and a four-point buck. Both suspects provided sworn written statements admitting to their illegal hunting. Both suspects were booked into the Baker County Jail charged with felony armed trespass, resisting without violence, taking doe deer out of season, taking by illegal method using modern guns in a black powder during muzzle loading only season, and no hunting licenses. Baker County Sheriff’s deputies and the Baker County Department of Corrections’ K-9 units assisted in the apprehension.
Officer Phillips was conducting boating safety and resource inspection at the barge canal when he stopped a boat with two fishermen inside. Officer Phillips asked if they had caught any fish, and the two men replied that they had some trout and a mullet. Upon further inspection, Officer Phillips located eight redfish. The largest was 14” long. Citations were issued for undersized and over-the-bag limit of red drum.
Citrus County officers were on water patrol in Levy County just north of the Withlacoochee River at the end of Highway 40 when the officers observed a well boat with three occupants harvesting oysters. A fisheries inspection revealed that one bag contained 250 undersized oysters while they were only allowed to have 25 undersized oysters per bag. Additionally, two other bags were checked with similar results. One of the occupants, the vessel owner, stated he was checking the oysters for proper size and it was his fault. Based on his statement, he alone was issued a citation to pay a fine of $305.00 to Levy County or appear in court. He was issued a written warning for failing to have oyster tags on board and no Florida registration numbers displayed.
Investigator Izsak observed some men fishing from the pier at Sisters Creek. She asked the men if they had had any luck fishing. The men stated “no.” After checking for fishing licenses, she asked the men if she could look in the cooler. The men hesitated and then gave her permission. She observed a few undersized spotted sea trout. She asked who had caught the trout. One man stated that he caught them all. She asked him if he had measured the fish or knew the legal size limits for spotted sea trout, and he said “no.” A records check revealed that the man was cited for undersized sea trout at that same location just months before. When she asked the man about the previous citation, he quickly apologized and explained in detail. He then stated that he knew better and would take responsibility for this violation. Investigator Izsak issued the man one citation and two warnings for undersized spotted sea trout.
Officers Huff and Brookes were working a night-hunting assignment on a remote highway in Taylor County when they observed a vehicle slow down and then turn around on the shoulder of the road where several deer were feeding. A passenger in the vehicle began to shine a spotlight in the direction where the deer were feeding. The officers made a stop on the vehicle and discovered four occupants with two loaded rifles. While interviewing the subjects, they admitted to trying to shoot the deer. All four were charged with attempting to take deer at night.
Officer Brookes and Investigator McMillan received information from a complainant regarding approximately 30 bags of household garbage that had been illegally dumped on private property. Officer Brookes and Investigator McMillan located the garbage and were able to locate numerous articles that identified a suspect and address. The officers responded to the residence identified from the garbage and interviewed the suspect. At first, the suspect blamed the dumping on his brother but later admitted to dumping it himself. Officer Brookes cited the subject for littering in excess of 15 pounds.
COPS – Community Oriented Policing
Officer Paul Langford participated in an annual “Career Day” held at the South Hamilton School in White Springs. Officer Langford spoke about what a FWC officer’s day-to- day job entails and what qualifications are needed to become a law enforcement officer. Approximately 170 students and staff were in attendance.
Officer Larosa attended the annual Green Cove Springs Women’s Club District Meeting in Clay County. Officer Larosa fielded questions about conservation in the State of Florida along with the duties of a FWC officer. There were approximately 80 in attendance.
Officer Carey participated in a “Technology Class” that was taught at Westside Elementary in Lake City. Officer Carey spoke about how technology assists FWC Officers on a daily basis to include different types of cameras, GPS devices and FLIR systems on helicopters. There were approximately 30 students and staff in attendance.
Lieutenant Lee and Officers McDonough and Loeffler were on federal fisheries patrol in FWC’s offshore patrol vessel, Osprey, out of Ponce Inlet. The officers were approximately six miles offshore when they conducted a fisheries inspection on a recreational vessel. The boarding team consisted of Officers McDonough and Loeffler. The officers examined several fish the fisherman had stored in fish boxes on the vessel. All of the fish in the fish boxes were in whole condition and legal to possess. Officer McDonough then asked the captain of the vessel if there were any more fish on the boat. The captain replied “no” and gave Officer McDonough permission to search the rest of the boat. Officer McDonough then located a cooler in the cabin of the vessel. The cooler contained several one-gallon plastic bags stuffed full of fresh fish fillets. A detailed examination of the bags revealed 36 individual fish fillets and four undersized black sea bass. Possession of any fish not in whole condition is a violation of both state and federal law. The illegal fillets and undersized sea bass were seized, and the case has been accepted by National Marine Fisheries for federal prosecution.
FWC officers located six illegal alligator lines along a small creek off of the Ocklawaha River. Officer Campbell conducted surveillance of the lines, noting four of the six had alligators on them, three of which were already dead. After a six-hour wait, two suspects arrived by boat and began bringing the alligators on board. Officer Campbell stopped the suspects who ultimately admitted they set the lines and knew they were illegal. Both suspects were charged with taking alligators by illegal method and taking over the bag limit of alligators.
Officers Meade and Guirate were checking fishermen cast netting shrimp on the St. Johns River. They found that one shrimper had taken two black bass with his cast net. One charge of taking freshwater game fish by illegal method was filed through the State Attorney’s Office.
Investigator Dack and Officer Guirate found many loads of yard debris and trash dumped on private property. The officers contacted the landowner who stated no one had permission to be on the property. A camera was set up and over the course of several days, photos revealed a white truck entered the property loaded with trash and exited the property empty. Approximately one week later, Investigator Dack was monitoring the area from a concealed position when the same truck occupied by two white males entered the property and dumped another load of trash and yard debris. Investigator Dack charged both suspects with criminal dumping exceeding 15 pounds and trespass.
FWC officers received deer-poaching complaints from the residence of a subdivision. Investigator Bonds and Officer Ramsey were contacted by one of the complainants who stated a vehicle was in the area that they believed was responsible for the poaching problem. The officers made contact with the driver. He was not hunting, but did have an active arrest warrant and was booked into the St. Johns County Jail.
Officer Collazo received information last week from a concerned fisherman who stated that there was a dark-colored Dodge pickup truck with two young white males taking over the bag limit and undersized snook late at night. Officer Collazo then contacted Officer Raczek to share the information with him. The two officers came up with a plan to do surveillance on the area where the men were supposed to be fishing. After a long time watching the area, a dark- colored Dodge pickup truck drove up and parked at the location. Two white males began to fish and caught several snook. After catching a snook, one of the males would disappear behind the bridge and return a short time later empty handed. After one of the men landed a large snook, the men started walking back to the truck with it. The second man walked behind the bridge and retrieved a stringer of fish. The officers quickly approached and identified themselves before the men could leave. They found the men in possession of one 32-inch snook and two undersized snook, one measuring 20 inches and the other measuring 16 inches. Both men were charged with possession of undersized and over the bag limit of snook and the fish were returned back into the water alive.
Officers Ervin and Smith received a complaint concerning a subject who was bow hunting and had trespassed on railroad property to illegally enter the Kissimmee River Public Use Area (PUA). After finding the subject’s vehicle and waiting several hours, the officers saw the man coming out of the PUA walking on the railroad tracks. He was issued a notice to appear for illegally entering and exiting the PUA and a warning for trespassing on the railroad tracks.
K-9 Officer Stasko and K-9 Pearson responded to a complaint in reference to a snook violation. Once on scene, Officer Stasko noticed a subject walking quickly from a park bench towards the water where several fishing poles were set up. Officer Stasko made contact with the subject who was walking into the water. During their conversation, the subject stated he had caught a snook and it was on a stringer under some mangroves. Once the fish was located, it was measured at 24 ½ inches. The subject said he didn’t measure the fish but was going to walk to a friend’s house to get a ruler. The subject was issued a misdemeanor citation for possession of an undersized snook.
COPS – COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Wells and Officers Freemon, Thompson and Smith participated in the annual Marine Quest outreach at FWRI. The officers showcased the Offshore Patrol Vessel Guardian and demonstrated how to rescue someone if they fall in the water. Officer Smith actually jumped in the water and let the school children throw him a type IV life ring. The first two days of the outreach were school days with hundreds of children from elementary as well as middle schools. The last day was the open house which was open to the public.
SOUTH REGION A
While patrolling West Broward County on US-27, Officer Sullivan came across a subject who had been freshwater fishing and was pulling his boat out of the water. Officer Sullivan conducted a boating safety inspection and a freshwater fisheries inspection and discovered that the owner of the vessel had an active warrant for felony larceny out of Broward County. The subject was placed in handcuffs and transported to the Broward County Jail.
Officer Wright was driving north on I-95 when he observed a vehicle driving carelessly in his rearview mirror. Officer Wright stopped the careless vehicle when the vehicle passed him. A records check showed the driver had an active warrant. The driver was arrested and taken to the Broward County Jail.
Officers Teal and Taylor were on land patrol in Glades County when they were advised by dispatch of a man in cardiac arrest in the Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The officers made it to the area and located the man quickly. The officers assisted EMS in getting the man in a stable condition and he was transported to the hospital.
Officers Teal and Taylor were on land patrol on a local ranch in south Highlands County when they made contact with the ranch manager. The manager welcomed the officers onto the ranch and advised them that some lease members were still hunting in a section of the ranch. They located the camp and immediately heard a gunshot in the distance. They waited at the camp for the hunters to return where they discovered one of them had killed a bobcat. Officer Teal issued one of the hunters a notice to appear in court for killing a bobcat out of season. They seized the bobcat and logged it into evidence at the Fisheating Creek evidence facility.
COPS – COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant McDonald was a guest speaker at Broward College for their Environmental Science Bachelor Program & Office of Volunteering and Leadership. Approximately 70+ students and other participants attended the seminar on “Life in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a Law Enforcement Officer.”
SOUTH REGION B
Lieutenant Mahoney and Officers Tidwell and Lugg helped put smiles on over 125 kids’ faces by placing fishing poles in their hands, baiting hooks and answering many questions during the 2014 Kid’s Fishing Clinic located at the Naples Pier. This fun and educational event made a difference in those young people’s lives as well as the recreational fishermen in attendance.
Officers Futch and Tolbert were conducting surveillance on subjects participating in the statewide alligator season at Lake Trafford. The officers approached a vessel and observed an adult alligator, approximately 8 feet in length, in the vessel. Upon further inspection, the officers discovered that the alligator was not tagged with a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) tag. The subject admitted that he failed to tag the alligator and was subsequently issued a citation for failing to tag the alligator immediately upon capture.
Officers Futch and Tolbert were conducting resource inspections within the Big Cypress National Preserve WMA. The officers made contact with a hunter who stated that he had harvested a legal spike, a deer that has no tines on its antlers. During the inspection, the officers discovered that the deer was actually an antlerless deer. The deer was seized and the subject was issued a Notice to Appear for the illegal take of an antlerless deer.
Officers Futch and Tolbert were conducting surveillance at night on an area known for illegal fishing and trespass. As subjects began to leave the area, the officers made contact with them and conducted a resource inspection. During the inspection, the officers discovered that one of the subjects was in possession of an oversized snook. The subject was issued a citation and the snook was seized as evidence.
National Park Service and FWC Officers worked together during a resource detail within the Big Cypress National Preserve WMA. Officers Futch and Tolbert patrolled Skillet ORV (Off Road Vehicle) Trail, Skillet Secondary Trail and Monument Lake ORV Trail within the WMA, via a swamp buggy. The officers completed several hunting camp inspections and made contact with numerous hunters during the opening week of the muzzleloader hunting season.
An officer and lieutenant were on water patrol late at night when they observed two subjects on board a vessel bullynetting for crawfish inside of Caesar’s Creek. The area where the subjects were bullynetting was well inside the boundary line of the Biscayne Bay-Cardsound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary. When the officers stopped the vessel to conduct a fisheries inspection, the operator explained that he “must’ve drifted in with the current.” The officers countered with the fact that currently, not only was there an outgoing tide, the prevailing breeze would have blown their vessel out of, not into the sanctuary. The operator of the vessel was cited for harvesting lobster from the sanctuary and possession of undersized lobsters. Later that same night, the officers stopped a commercial vessel bullynetting inside the sanctuary at Broad Creek. That subject was also cited for the same violation.
An officer on water patrol was summoned by US Coast Guard (USCG) to a location near Virginia Key. Upon arrival, the officer observed that USCG personnel had detained three fishermen in a small row boat. A fisheries inspection revealed that the subjects were in possession of forty-seven mangrove snappers and thus were cited for over-the-limit and undersized violations.
Officer Martin was on water patrol in southern Miami-Dade County when she stopped a vessel near Caesar’s Creek. Officer Martin conducted a fisheries inspection and soon discovered a nurse shark that was missing the head and tail. The captain of the vessel was cited for not landing a shark in whole condition.
Officer McKay was on park patrol in Pennekamp State Park when he saw a small inflatable boat run across a protected sea grass flats. Officer McKay stopped the vessel and issued the operator a citation. During the course of the stop, Officer McKay learned that the vessel in question was a rental from a new business. The vessel was missing the registration as well as required safety equipment. Also, the contract for the rental was not on board the vessel. A follow-up investigation revealed that the business was operating unlawfully by knowingly renting vessels without the required safety equipment and they were not writing contracts. As a result, the owners of the business were cited accordingly.