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WDFW Enforcement is divided into two patrol sections, Marine and Land, although responsibilities often overlap and the two sections commonly assist each other. The following are real life events that provide a snapshot of fish and wildlife enforcement activity in Washington State. These examples show the diversity of issues that Fish and Wildlife Police Officers ("Game Wardens") encounter while protecting your natural resources, but are by no means all encompassing of our many accomplishments. All violations are considered alleged unless a conviction has been secured.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekly Enforcement Highlights

Metal Heads
Not to be confused with followers of a heavy metal band, there is an emerging culture of thieves focused on lifting metal from wherever their sticky fingers can find it. Soaring prices have made everything from copper wire to sprinkler heads attractive to those struggling with methamphetamine addiction. Many of these thefts are large scale, with incredible damage and monetary impact to the victims. Unfortunately, the impact is often felt by outdoorsmen as well, as frustrated land owners lock up their property and no longer allow public access.

Our Officers have been proactive in fostering goodwill from land owners by investigating these kinds of cases. For example, in 2011 our Officers assisted the Grant County Sheriff’s Office with serving a search warrant on a 300+ acre ranch north of Quincy that was being used as a stolen property drop point. The suspects were manufacturing methamphetamine and were also linked to the theft of large amounts of metal, farm equipment and wire. Officers also discovered what appeared to be several homemade bombs in one of the outbuildings, resulting in a halt to the search and a call to the bomb squad.

More recently, Officer Snyder was checking waterfowl hunters at the Potholes Wildlife Area when he drove up on a man holding a lighted piece of newspaper in his hand, about to torch off a load of copper wire. The object is to melt the plastic housing off of the wire so that it is marketable and can’t be traced back to its origin. In this case, the wire was sitting in a 50 gallon drum soaked in gasoline.

The man was taken into custody after Officer Snyder learned that he had four outstanding warrants for his arrest, totaling over $51,000 in bail. The man was transported to jail while Captain Anderson and Grant County Sheriff's Deputy Granger processed the scene along with the suspect's vehicle. Another Deputy advised the Officers on scene that he had received a call the previous day about a man driving the same kind of vehicle who was possibly involved in a wire theft north of Moses Lake. Interestingly, the license plate did not return to a registered owner. Without the vigilance of Officer Snyder, that theft would have likely gone unresolved. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office is now pursuing the theft investigation and attempting to locate a victim. Officer Snyder will be charging the suspect with driving while his license privileges were revoked and illegal dumping.

Not So Minor Details
Sergeant Phillips was on patrol in the snow along the Suiattle River Road when he contacted a vehicle with two tribal deer hunters. After noticing a rifle covered with a coat in between the hunters, Sgt. Phillips asked if it was loaded.  The driver was adamant that the gun was not loaded.  He slightly opened the breech of the .22 caliber pump action rifle and slammed it shut... BANG! The gun went off. The discharged round entered the truck's firewall and missed the passenger.  Once the two cleaned their drawers and everyone checked themselves for injuries, they were separated from the rifle. The four shells in the gun were unloaded, the damage was documented, and a citation was issued.

Waterfowl Emphasis
Mother Nature wreaked havoc on Washington State with cold temperatures, snow, ice and freezing rain the week before last. With power outages and vehicle accidents, most folks chose to stay home. But waterfowl hunters are a hardy breed, and knowing that inclement weather means good hunting, many braved the elements for a little duck pate’.

Officers  were also out in the elements making sure regulations were followed. Our Fish and Wildlife Officers and two USFWS Officers conducted waterfowl hunting emphasis patrol in Franklin, Walla Walla, Benton and Yakima Counties, as well as parts of the Yakama Indian Reservation. While most hunters were successful in their hunt and in following the laws, officers did make cases for illegally hunting with the aid of bait, hunting without licenses, unplugged shotguns and possession of a loaded shotgun in a motor vehicle.

While the Cat's Away...
When we leave our homes and property behind to partake in well-earned vacations, there is always some worry that everything will be secure: Did I leave a light on? Should I have left the cat outside? Sure, it’s always best to have a neighbor keep an eye out for potential mischief to maintain that peace of mind, but even with the best of planning, bad things can happen...

Such was the case when Sergeant Erhardt spotted a vehicle partially submerged at the south end of Moses Lake. The late model H2 had broken through six inches of ice, abandoned with the keys still in the ignition. Officers were unable to contact the registered owner by phone, so the residence was checked. Deputies arrived at the residence to find the doors open and nobody home. It appeared that the house had been burglarized while the family was away for the holiday weekend. What a lousy welcome home! However, Sgt. Erhardt’s actions prevented additional loss of property as local law enforcement was able to secure the property until the owner's returned from vacation.

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