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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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kudos to Officer Jason Day!

We received these photos from Mr. Reed Prater, proud dad of Logan Prater (age 10), who shot his first deer on Opening Day 2011 in Bridgeport!

Logan Reed, age 10, with his first deer (3x2 with eyeguards)

Logan made a great 100-yard shot with his dad by his side. But what made this momentous occasion even more special, according to Mr. Reed, was that Fish and Wildlife Officer Jason Day helped them drag the deer out, through a creek and up a steep hill to the truck.

Officer Day helps drag Logan's deer back to the truck

Mr. Prater says "What an exemplary role model display by Officer Day!" Officer Day made quite the impression on Logan and his dad... apparently they weren't quite expecting a 'game warden' to help them out like that. Way to go, Officer Day!!

And congratulations, Logan!
Here's to many more successful hunts with your dad by your side.
Logan and his proud dad - hunting partners for life! :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Unknown Dangers of an Officer's Routine

In-progress night poaching, domestic violence in a camp, industrial-sized marijuana plantations on public land, arrest warrant service... these are activities that our officers often respond to, and they accept and plan for the obvious safety risks that are involved.

While potential dangers can be mitigated if a violator's intent is known, and the Officer has time for a planned and proper approach, nothing is guaranteed in our business. It’s the unknown that poses the greatest risk, especially when coupled with what some classify as (and I hesitate to use the word) "routine" work.  

A Washington State Trooper was tragically killed recently, during what began as a traffic stop, probably related to some minor violation. Stopping a vehicle for a traffic infraction was a routine Trooper Radulescu had practiced a thousand times without incident. Similarly, a Fish and Wildlife Officer's field check of a person who outwardly appears to be legally participating in outdoor activities can also be considered routine. But we all know appearances can be deceiving.

Officer Chad McGary and Captain Chris Anderson were reminded of this a couple of years ago when they found themselves in a situation that could very easily have ended in tragedy if it wasn't for their quick thinking and level heads. What began as a routine fishing license check quickly turned into one officer being held hostage at knife point, while the other exchanged gunfire with a second subject. Turns out the suspect was in the country illegally and concerned about being armed. The suspect is still in the country where he is residing in a Washington State Corrections facility for the next 30 years.

The most recent incident of a routine contact gone wrong had striking similarities. While conducting license checks a few weeks ago,  Officer Brandon Chamberlin contacted a man and woman fishing at Horseshoe Lake in Clark County. What he didn't know was that the man was wanted on several arrest warrants, and had no interest in being discovered and hauled into jail. The two gave false names to Officer Chamberlin when he started to write them tickets for fishing without a license. As he escorted them to his vehicle to verify their identities, the man bolted. Officer Chamberlin gave chase and wrestled him to the ground, at which time Officer Chamberlin was thrown through a fence, hitting his head on a post. He deployed his Taser, but the suspect jerked the probes out of his body and kept running. He circled back to his vehicle and sped off, with Officer Chamberlin and Cowlitz County Sheriff's Deputies in hot pursuit.

The man eventually tipped his vehicle on its side, miraculously righted it, and continued on. As Washington State Patrol Troopers and Woodland Police Officers were lining up their patrol vehicles in a pursuit intervention technique to stop the fleeing suspect, the man swerved and hit a Woodland Police patrol car, effectively putting an end to the pursuit and the suspect's hopes of avoiding jail time. The suspect was taken into custody and booked into the Clark County Jail for multiple crimes.

Luckily, Officer Chamberlin sustained only cuts and abrasions to his hands and a raspberry where he hit his head on the fence post. The Woodland Police Officer whose patrol car was hit was not injured.

This incident is just one more reminder of the dangers our Officers encounter while protecting the public and our state's natural resources. And although, like you, our Officers may go through the same routine while leaving home each day, we must remember that nothing in life is guaranteed, and nothing in natural resource law enforcement can ever be considered routine.

Weekly Highlights

No, Bull!
Officers Beauchene and Mosman responded to a report of a bull moose entangled in a rope near Nine Mile Falls. They arrived to find a very irritated bull solidly attached to a small pine tree by way of a long rope that was wrapped in its antlers and somehow tied in a secure knot to the tree. The rope had about 25-30’ of slack, which allowed the bull a fairly large range of movement, which seemed like even more when standing near it. Officer Mosman used an extendable limb-pruning tool to cut the rope near the antlers, and was thanked for his efforts by a very angry bull lowering his head, stomping the ground, and contemplating charging him… After a brief standoff, the bull decided discretion was the better part of valor and headed the other way, while Officer Mosman hastily vacated the area!

Not-So-Dynamic Duo Busted
Officers Horn and Fulton received information from an Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Trooper concerning two Washington residents who were allegedly trapping in Oregon. One of the trappers was contacted in Oregon and was found to be in possession of trapped bobcats. Further investigation found that the father and son team had previously unlawfully trapped and transported unsealed bobcats from Oregon to Washington. Officers Horn and Fulton assisted OSP in the investigation, and contacted the son at his residence in Mesa, Washington. A consent search found the pair to be in possession of eight raw bobcat pelts. The son admitted that he had unlawfully trapped five of them without an Oregon fur-bearer’s license. Although the father was licensed in Oregon, none of the eight bobcats were sealed before they were transported into Washington. All of the bobcat pelts were seized along with the skulls. A report will be forwarded to OSP and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office for consideration of charges at a later date.

Ring-Tail Cougar Sighting!
Officer Grant responded to a midnight report of a cougar in a tree at a residence in Leavenworth. The resident stated they heard screaming and saw a cougar in their tree. Officer Grant searched the area, only to find five large raccoons staring at him from the tree branches. No evidence of a cougar was found… but five angry raccoons can sure sound like one!

More Than Meets the Eye
It’s bad enough that he falsified his Washington residency status to get a break on license fees. But when Officer Alexander and other Officers arrived at the subject’s house in McCleary with a search warrant, they discovered his method of hunting was illegal too. The subject had harvested at least two elk (you can only have one per year) and poached a deer. One of the elk, a four-point bull, was located hanging on the wall as a shoulder mount and was seized, along with packaged deer and elk meat and a Matthews Z7 bow. There was additional evidence of bear baiting and illegal hound hunting for cougar and bobcat.

Hot Boxing Burglary Suspect Busted
While checking areas for smelt at night, Officers Chamberlin and Hughes contacted a car full of young adults at the WDFW’s South Pekin access to the Lewis River. With night vision, they observed a blacked-out car parked at the boat ramp. The occupants appeared to be lighting up a bowl. When our Officers contacted the vehicle, there was a strong odor of marijuana, no access decal, and one of its four occupants told our Officers “watch out, the smoke’s coming out.” The four individuals were found in possession of marijuana and a pipe, which they were using to ‘hot box’ in the car. A background check of the occupants revealed that one of the passengers had a no bail warrant in Cowlitz County, and was arrested. The driver was also arrested on drug charges.

Woodland PD overheard our radio traffic and realized the vehicle we had contacted was the same one they had been searching for all day in relation to a recent burglary case. Two Woodland PD units and a Sergeant arrived on scene to question all four subjects. The driver of the vehicle was additionally arrested on burglary charges and transported to county jail. The vehicle was impounded and towed. Charges were issued for the drugs and access violation.

Night Poacher Nixed
Sgt. Nixon rolled out of bed at 1:00 am after a Sergeant at Ocean Shores PD called to report a deer poaching. Local police responded to a “shots fired” call and located a man from Seattle who had shot a deer with an AR-15 near the local elementary school. The subject was just loading the deer into a one-ton Dodge pick-up when he was arrested. Officer Do came out to assist Sgt. Nixon. The poacher was booked, and his truck, rifle and a handgun were seized for forfeiture proceedings.

Wanted Felon Taken Into Custody:
Officer Vance received information from a Klickitat County Detective that a subject with a $50,000 felony warrant was staying in the Anatone area. Officers Vance and Myers went to the residence and took the subject into custody without incident on the warrant for 1st Degree Burglary, four counts of Theft of a Firearm and two counts of 1st Degree Theft.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Weekly Highlights

Specialized Training... Fun?
Officer Day recently spent a week at the Law Enforcement Mountain Operations School (LEMOS) at Priest Lake, Idaho. Activities included day and night land navigation, cold weather survival skills, emergency medical procedures, and team operations planning. The entire outdoor portion of the class was performed on snowshoes. Although snowshoeing can be an enjoyable winter recreational activity, Officer Day quickly realized that evacuating a 240-pound victim from deep snow and heavy timber while wearing snowshoes and dodging simulated gunfire (firecrackers being thrown in his general direction), wasn't very fun.... or easy.

Tool Boxes Have Many Uses (Some Illegal)
While on an evening patrol in the Ahtanum area, Officer Caton contacted a subject near Nasty Creek. While conducting a safety check on guns in the subject's truck, he spotted blood on the tailgate. There can only be a couple of explanations for this, given that big game season is closed…….. and has been closed for quite some time now. After some questioning by Officer Caton, the closed season deer hunter produced a doe hidden in a toolbox in the bed of the truck. His firearm was seized for forfeiture proceedings, and Officer Caton will be forwarding this case to the prosecutor’s office.

Loose Dogs Bad For Wildlife
Officer Oswald responded to a complaint of dogs chasing bighorn sheep near Chelan last week. Four dogs managed to push a full curl ram off of a cliff, resulting in a broken rear femur. Only one dog remained when Officer Oswald arrived, but took off in haste when he recognized he was at risk of being taken into custody. While Game Wardens can run pretty fast, four legs are definitely better than two.

Jumping the Season (And Teaching the Kids To Do the Same)
Officer Johnson worked Fish Hook Pond prior to its opening debut.  This pond is notorious for closed season action because of its remote, walk-in location. Officer Johnson knows he can count on a few cheaters who disadvantage the majority of legal anglers that exercise patience. He contacted three fishermen there with seven fish in the bag, a father and (shame on him) his two sons. Dad was cited for fishing closed season and warned about his boys, including one 15-year-old who had no fishing license.

Felon With a Gun
If you’re a convicted felon who's not allowed to possess firearms, you might want to think twice about attracting law enforcement attention by using one. Officer Horn was patrolling the Juniper Dunes area on Bureau of Land Management land when he located four guys target shooting with what looked like an illegal sawed-off shotgun. The men appeared to be very nervous when he contacted them, but fortunately all were compliant with Officer Horn’s commands. One claimed ownership of the firearm, and he was later found to be a convicted felon with a previous felony charge of possession of a firearm. A marijuana pipe was also found. A felon who is high and using an illegal gun…… not your typical family outing. 

Gun Fight At The OK Corral?
Fish and Wildlife Police Officers stationed in Okanogan County weren’t sure what to expect when they responded to a report of a deranged deer poacher who was shooting at four witnesses in Concunully. Apparently the men were pinned down on a hill above their truck....

So four Okanogan County Sheriff's Deputies, WDFW Sergeant Brown, and Officers Christensen, McCormick, and Day surrounded the area, but found no one. A citizen then reported to 911 that the suspect was on foot in town. He was subsequently found at a house cooking a roast from a poached deer.... 

Officers determined that he had poached the deer the night before the shooting was heard, and surmised that at the time the four witnesses found the deer hanging in a tree, there just happened to be someone target shooting at a nearby rock pit... which led them to believe they were being shot at. Officers seized the poached buck that was hanging in a tree and the suspect's weapons. Given that the man had several outstanding arrest warrants and had illegally possessed a firearm as a convicted felon, he was booked into jail.