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FWC Weekly Report

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

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The FWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Logo. Photo: myfwc.com

NORTHWEST REGION

ESCAMBIA COUNTY

Officer Manning checked a vessel in the early morning hours that was returning to the Shoreline Boat Ramp. A fisheries check revealed the individual in possession of two red snapper. Red snapper season is currently closed. Officer Manning issued a notice to appear citation for the violation.

Over a period of several days, Officer Manning worked a baited hunting site in the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area. While checking the site one day this week, he encountered a hunter hunting over the bait. The hunter admitted placing the bait reportedly because he had several good bucks on camera and he wanted to keep the deer in the area. Officer Manning issued a notice to appear citation for the violation.

Officer Cushing was on water patrol on a very busy Veterans Day. While conducting fisheries inspections at Mahogany Mill Boat Ramp, he made contact with two people on a small boat who claimed they had a big black grouper. The two individuals were on a 17‑foot center console vessel and claimed they were fishing 50 plus miles out. Knowing that black grouper are not common in this area, Officer Cushing had to see for himself. The inspection revealed a very large gag grouper and a large black grouper plus ten scamps. The fishermen were over their four per person grouper aggregate. The Captain stated that he must have miscounted. A citation was issued to the Captain.

HOLMES COUNTY
Officer Yates concluded an investigation stemming from a complaint regarding the unlawful taking of deer during the 2013-2014 hunting season. The complaint alleged that two individuals had illegally killed a buck deer at night from the highway. After numerous interviews and leads, Officer Yates was able to file warrants on two Westville residents for taking deer at night with a gun and light and shooting from the roadway. While serving the warrants, one of the individuals was also found to be in possession of cannabis. Both subjects were arrested and taken to Holmes County Jail.

JACKSON COUNTY
Officers Forehand and Loyed worked several baited sites in the Chipola Wildlife Management Area that were located in the weeks prior to the opening of archery season. All three sites were baited with shelled corn and had tree stands and a hunting blind set up in close proximity. Just before sunrise, three hunters entered the area and each went to their respective stand or blind armed with a crossbow. The officers waited a short time until the sun was up and then made contact with the subjects. All three subjects were cited for hunting over a baited area in a wildlife management area.

OKALOOSA COUNTY
Officer P. Rockwell was working the Destin East and West jetties after receiving previous information and complaints that subjects were catching and keeping over sized red fish. After checking several subjects returning from the jetties, one of the subjects advised that two males were currently still out fishing and had an oversized red fish strung up and hidden in the rocks. Officer P. Rockwell contacted Officer Brooks who arrived to assist. The officers conducted surveillance and waited for the subjects to return. Upon an inspection of their back packs, Officer P. Rockwell discovered an over sized red fish that had its head and tail cut off to conceal its size limit. The subject was charged with failure to land red drum in whole condition.

Officer Molnar concluded an investigation involving an untitled vessel anchored in Destin Harbor. The owner purchased the vessel in 2012 from a private party and had been storing it on Florida waters since the transaction date. The owner was unable to provide any proof of ownership; therefore, Monroe County FWC Investigator Brown assisted in locating the previous owner in Key West to obtain a written statement and bill of sale. Based on the circumstances of the investigation, an arrest warrant was issued for storing an untitled vessel on the waters of the state.

COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING

OKALOOSA COUNTY
Officers J. Rockwell and C. Jarvis presented the laws & ethics portion to a Hunter Education class at Okaloosa Correctional Institute. There were 39 students in the class. The officers answered many questions about the new antler restrictions for the new Deer Management Units.

NORTH CENTRAL REGION

DUVAL COUNTY

Lieutenant Arkin was on patrol of the county docks and the St. Johns River in Jacksonville when he observed a 2004 Maroon Minivan parked with two occupants, who were exhibiting suspicious behavior. Lieutenant Arkin proceeded to do a well-being check on the subjects. He immediately detected a strong odor associated with the smell of cannabis emitting from the vehicle. Lieutenant Arkin also observed in plain view on the center console a cannabis grinder with cannabis and also a socket to a ratchet set that was being used as a smoking pipe. The front seat passenger admitted that the grinder and other drug paraphernalia belonged to him. Lieutenant Arkin issued the passenger a notice to appear for possession of cannabis under 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia. There was a total of 14.5 grams of cannabis seized.

HAMILTON COUNTY
FWC Dispatch received a call Saturday night from Hamilton County 911 that two men were camping, and one of the men suffered a medical issue similar to a stroke along the Hamilton County side of the Suwannee River. Lieutenants Kiss and Creech along with Officers Boone, Langford and Gill (K-9 Friar) responded to the Hamilton County side of the Suwannee River to assist in locating the two men. After a lengthy search of the area using a K-9, two FWC officers located the men who were camping along the river. Unfortunately the man who was in distress was deceased. FWC officers guided Fire Officials and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Deputies to the scene for processing.

OLAFAYETTE COUNTY
Officer Wilcox patrolled the Steinhatchee Springs Wildlife Management Area (WMA) checking for illegal hunting activity. Officer Wilcox returned to an area he knew was being hunted and did a quick walk through during midday. Officer Wilcox observed a climbing tree stand in the area along with corn scattered around the stand. At about 4:30 p.m., Officer Wilcox returned to the area and observed a pickup truck parked in the vicinity. Officer Wilcox went into the baited area on foot and observed a hunter in the tree stand with both a shotgun and rifle hunting over the corn. The suspect admitted that he had put out the bait knowing it was illegal. In addition to a citation for hunting over bait, he received two written warnings for not wearing required blaze orange and placing bait in a WMA.

MADISON COUNTY
Officers Huff and Pekerol were patrolling a remote area in Madison County when the officers drove pass a private residence and saw lights shining on a skinning rack and a deer hanging from it. The Officers entered the property and observed two men cleaning a freshly killed doe deer. One of the men admitted to killing the doe right before dark. The man was charged with taking antlerless deer during closed season.

NORTHEAST REGION

BREVARD COUNTY

Officers worked a targeted enforcement detail for the opening day of general gun hunting season. During the detail, eighty users were checked and twenty-two vessel inspections were conducted. Two criminal cases were made for hunting-related violations. In one case, Officer Loeffler and a local investigator were on foot patrol on the Upper St. Johns Wildlife Management Areas along the Deseret Ranch fence line when they located two hunters who had harvested a buck. After speaking with the hunters for a short time it became clear that the shot placement was not consistent with the hunter’s story. Once the subject was read Miranda and questioned, he admitted that he had shot the buck on the other side of the fence and his father had crossed the fence as well to retrieve the deer. A felony and two misdemeanor charges are being filed with the State Attorney’s Office. In the second case, Officers Horst, Boyer and Land checked a hunter who stated he had not killed anything. A short distance away they located a game cart with an antlerless deer on it, which was illegal to harvest at the time. Two of the officers departed on the airboat while the third stayed behind to watch the cart. A short time later, the hunter that had been previously checked returned to retrieve the deer. He received a criminal citation for the violation.

Officer Land was on patrol in the Sebastian Inlet State Park conducting fisheries inspections. While on the north jetty, Officer Land noticed an individual walking with a cooler and fishing poles. Officer Land stopped the individual to conduct a fisheries inspection. Upon inspection, Officer Land found that the man was in possession of a tarpon located in his cooler. The individual did not have the required tarpon tag. Officer Land seized the tarpon, and issued a notice to appear for possession of tarpon. The tarpon was later returned to the resource.

While conducting resource inspections at the Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officer Kearney and his field training officer observed a group of four individuals fishing and placing their catch in a nearby cooler. Officer Kearney inspected the cooler and found 15 undersize mangrove snapper and one undersize sheepshead. The individuals claimed joint ownership of the undersized mangrove snappers and each person was cited. One individual admitted to possession of the undersize sheepshead and received an additional citation.

OSCEOLA COUNTY

While on patrol Investigator Trusley, and Officer Lejarzar received information about a short horned buck that had been harvested in Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area. The officers responded and interviewed the subject. Their investigation concluded that the subject had shot a deer with antlers less than 5 inches. The subject was issued a notice to appear for the violation, and the deer was seized.

Later the same day Investigator Trusley and Officer Lejarzar received information that another individual had taken a short horned buck in the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area. The officers responded and interviewed the subject. Their investigation concluded that the subject had shot a deer with antlers less than 5 inches. The subject was issued a notice to appear for the violation, and the deer was seized.

Investigator Trusley received information that a person had illegally entered Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and had not checked into the check station. Investigator Trusley and Officers Lejarzar, and Rasey responded. They tracked the individual’s foot sign for approximately two miles, but as the terrain made tracking nearly impossible they decided to return to the area where he illegally entered. Lieutenant Fugate arrived to assist Investigator Trusley and Officers Lejarzar, and Rasey. Lieutenant Fugate observed from a concealed location as the subject returned and illegally exited the Wildlife Management Area. Investigator Trusley, and Officers Lejarzar and Rasey interviewed the subject and were able to determine that he had knowingly entered the Wildlife Management Area illegally and failed to check in at the check station. The subject was issued a notice to appear for the violations.

Officer Arendas received a call from a private land owner who had found a tree stand and bait placed on his property. The land owner met with Officer Arendas and explained that the individual did not have permission to hunt the property and they were willing to press charges. After many days of working the tree stand he was finally able to locate the hunter who was trespassing with a firearm. The individual was arrested and his firearm was seized for evidence.

MARION COUNTY

Officer Wear was working night hunting in South Marion County. Officer Wear heard a shot near his location and then stopped a vehicle that was traveling by his location. Officer Wear observed a shotgun in the back seat of the truck and the suspects admitted to shooting at a deer from the roadway. They said they had discarded the spent shot gun shell somewhere along the roadway. Officer Wear contacted K9 Officer Simpson who arrived on scene and deployed K9 Moose. Moose searched a strip of roadway approximately ½ miles and located the spent shell casing. The suspects were charged with discharge of firearm from a roadway and for attempting to take a deer at night by gun and light.

SOUTHWEST REGION

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY

Officers Baker and Hoover worked private property located in western Hillsborough County near Oldsmar. The landowner had previously had problems with hunters trespassing and illegal hunting. The officers quietly walked into the property and observed one adult and one juvenile bow hunting in separate ladder stands. The adult was charged with armed trespass, which is a felony, and transported to the Hillsborough County Jail. He was also issued a written warning for hunting over bait. The juvenile was turned over to his mother.

PINELLAS COUNTY

While on foot patrol at Blinds Pass (Pinellas County) Officer Bibeau made contact with an individual that was fishing from the seawall to perform a fisheries inspection. During the inspection Officer Bibeau located a bag that was filled with miscellaneous bait fish and found a small snook that had been cut up into pieces. Officer Bibeau wrote the individual a misdemeanor citation for failure to land snook in whole condition and a warning for possession of an undersized snook.

SOUTH REGION A

BROWARD COUNTY

Investigator Coffin and Officers Brock and Warne worked a DUI checkpoint hosted by the Miramar Police Department, numerous Broward County Police agencies participated. The officers issued numerous citations for driving with a suspended driver license (both knowingly and unknowingly). They made several warrant arrests including felony warrants. They also assisted in several driving under the influence checks. Officer Brock also assisted Miramar PD in his capacity as a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert).

Officer Alford and Wright were on vessel patrol just south of Port Everglades Inlet. Officer Wright observed several vessels moored to the anchor buoys. Officers Alford and Wright performed safety and resource inspections on the moored vessels. Officer Wright boarded the third vessel to do a fisheries inspection when the operator advised that they had snapper on the vessel. The operator said the fish were in the live well. Officer Wright opened the live well and observed what appeared to be several undersize snapper. After a thorough check, the vessel contained 27 yellowtail snapper of which 25 were undersize. The operator said that he didn’t know you needed to measure fish even though there was a measuring sticker with fish pictures and regulations stuck on the starboard side of his vessel. The operator and passenger were cited for undersize and over the aggregate bag limit of snapper.

Investigator Bingham was on water patrol in state waters just north of Port Everglades in Broward County, where he observed a 150 foot motor yacht anchored on a shallow reef. Using ESRI ArcGIS program, it was determined that the yacht was anchored over coral reef hard bottom by deploying 150’ of anchor and chain. Investigator Bingham contacted DEP’s Reef Injury Prevention and Response (RIPR) team to report the location and incident. RIPR later conducted a dive at the location and determined that damage had been done to the reef at the reported location of the anchored vessel. Damaging coral reef by anchoring is a violation of Florida’s Coral Reef Protection Act. Charges are pending at this time.

HENDRY COUNTY

K-9 Officer Lilley along with Officer Hofheinz were on patrol in Hendry County when they observed a vehicle moving at an extremely slow rate of speed on a rural road known for illegal hunting activity. The vehicle traveled slowly in front of the Officers location where the Officers observed the vehicle utilizing a combination of its headlights and a handheld light to illuminate the edge of the right of way. The vehicle turned around a few times stopping and reversing in the roadway. The Officers conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle where they located two subjects possessing two rifles and a freshly shot rabbit. The subjects were cited appropriately and the rifles along with the rabbit were seized as evidence.

ST. LUCIE COUNTY

Officer Fretwell and K-9 Officer Payne were conducting fisheries inspections at a park in Fort Pierce. They encountered an individual sitting on a bench by the water. He had a fishing pole and a cooler near him. Officer Fretwell and Payne discovered an undersized snook in the cooler which appeared to have been cast netted. Officer Payne then walked further up the road and discovered two other individuals in the water cast netting. The individuals dumped their bucket of fish in the water when they saw him walking down the road, but Officer Payne was able to recover most of the fish. Among the fish recovered were an undersized mangrove snapper and an undersize sheepshead. Three subjects were issued citations for multiple violations.

COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Laubenberger commanded the Broward Police Multi-Agency Honor Guard during the presentation of colors (National Anthem) at the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hollywood Beach. The ceremony led off the annual meeting of a National Retail Association.

SOUTH REGION A

COLLIER

Officer Futch heard multiple gunshots coming from a citrus grove while on patrol in Immokalee. He observed several subjects spread throughout the area wearing camouflage clothing and holding what appeared to be shotguns. Officer Futch approached one of the hunters and observed several dead doves lying on the ground next to him. Officer Futch asked the subject if the shotgun he was using was capable of holding more than three rounds and the subject stated, “I think so and I know it’s illegal because I remember that being a test question when I took the hunters education course.” The subject was issued a notice to appear (citation) for the violation.

Lieutenant Williams, Officer Futch and local United States Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement personnel worked together to enforce both regulatory and federal laws during opening weekend of the second phase of dove season. The Officers were successful in educating the public concerning regulatory and federal laws. They checked approximately 40 hunters throughout Collier County. The Officers issued several warnings, as well as made cases for individuals having over-the-bag limit quota and taking by an illegal method.

MIAMI-DADE
Officers Pestka, Pino, and Lieutenant Smith assisted with administering the physical assessment test which is part of the hiring process for the FWC. Statewide 448 people were tested of which 382 passed.

Officer Martin rushed to help officers from Miami-Dade County who were attempting to locate a subject who was found to be trespassing in the environmentally endangered lands near Card Sound Road in Southern Miami-Dade County. The subject’s deer stand as well as an established hunting camp was located by the officers inside the protected lands. After a lengthy search the subject was found walking on Card Sound Road and was subsequently charged with trespassing.

Captain Beaon and Lieutenant Riesz were on water patrol in the upper Keys when they stopped a commercial fishing vessel that was pulling traps. The colors on the trap line buoys did not match the colors on the boat. A detailed inspection of the Captain’s paperwork revealed that the owner of the traps in question did not submit the proper paper work to allow another vessel to pull his traps. The Captain was issued 2 warnings and a citation for not having a throw-able life ring in good working condition.

Lieutenant Haney and Officers Mattson and White were assigned to patrol the waters off of Key West during the Key West Super Boat World Championship. Their mission was to look for boat operators that were operating their vessels under the influence of alcohol. It was not long before they stopped a vessel that entered the restricted race area after being warned not to do so by the Coast Guard. The operator exhibited signs of impairment and was administered sobriety tests which he failed. The operator was ultimately charged with boating under the influence.

Officers Foell, Adams and Richards were on water patrol in northern Monroe County near the Everglades when they conducted a boating safety and marine fisheries inspection on a commercial lobster vessel. As they approached the vessel they observed one of the occupants taking out multiple lobsters from a live well and putting them into a trap on the stern of the vessel. During their inspection, the Officers found 110 undersized spiny lobsters in the live well. Officer Foell issued a notice to appear to the commercial fisherman for having over the legal limit of 50 undersized lobsters, plus one per trap onboard, for re-baiting lobster traps.

COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING

Officer Dube was the key note speaker at US Coast Guard Station Islamorada where he spoke to approximately 30 members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary about the FWC’s mission and jurisdiction. A question and answer session followed that proved to be beneficial to everyone involved.

Officer Way and Lt. Peters of the offshore Patrol Vessel “Peter Gladding”, participated in the Key West Preschool Co-Op Annual Truck day. Lieutenant Peters and Officer Way brought one of their 30’ patrol vessels to the event. Over 50 children, ages 1-6 got a chance to board the patrol vessel, pose for a pictures and pretend they were on patrol.

Contact Info
www.myfwc.com