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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, May 2, 2012

Weekly Highlights

The Golden Ticket
Officer McGary thought the Quincy Lake fisherman looked vaguely familiar upon initial contact, but when the man asked the Officer if he remembered him from a contact last year, McGary couldn’t quite put his finger on it (similar conversations usually go something like: "You wrote me a chicken #@% ticket I didn’t deserve, how do you sleep at night?").

Sure enough, Officer McGary had pinched this fisherman the previous year for not having life jackets onboard his boat. As the man explained this, McGary braced himself for what might come next. You can imagine his surprise when the man told him that, since receiving that ticket, he has made sure to always have enough PFDs on board his boat for himself and his passengers. He further explained that, a month after receiving the ticket, he was out on the Pacific Ocean with his family when his boat began to take on water and sank. Everyone on board his boat was wearing a PFD, and nobody was injured.

The fisherman thanked Officer McGary for his professionalism, and told him that without the reminder the previous year, he probably would not have had enough life jackets with him that day on the ocean. The thankful fisherman told Officer McGary that the ticket actually saved his life. Wow! We don’t get that kind of introspection everyday....

Crabby Crabbers
It's bad enough when low catch rates make it hard for commercial crab fishermen in North Puget Sound to scratch together a living. The high price can help offset this some, if not for people stealing crab from the traps.... and sometimes stealing the traps themselves. Imagine someone breaking into your car and stealing your wallet... or, worse yet, stealing your car and your wallet. Not much difference here, except that these fishermen don’t have insurance, and this kind of property crime is hard to detect. Who do you call if you do witness this kind of theft? The Fish and Wildlife Police.

Officer Rosenberger recently responded to just such a call in plain clothes and his personal vehicle within ten minutes of the report. Utilizing a camera with a large telephoto lens, he photographed the suspect vessel as the operator and deckhand pulled six commercial pots that did not belong to them. And in case you're wondering, nobody's confused here – these are fishermen who know one another, and all have crab gear marked in such a way as to distinguish it from someone else’s (think Deadliest Catch). The suspects removed the legal sized crab before putting the pots back into the water. Officers Gaston and Downes arrived in the area shortly after, and together with Officer Rosenberger, they devised a plan to catch the thieves the next time they went out.

As the suspect vessel got underway the next time, Officer Rosenberger again photographed the crime, this time from an unmarked vehicle, as the outlaws pulled four more commercial crab pots belonging to others and stole numerous crab from within. Meanwhile, Officer Gaston observed the vessel’s return to the dock and watched as the suspects loaded their stolen crab into their vehicle. As the two suspects drove away, Officers Rosenberger and Downes performed a vehicle stop and detained them until Officer Gaston arrived to question them. After a few lies were told, the truth finally came out. Both suspects confessed in a written statement to pulling gear that didn’t belong to them and stealing crab. They also failed to possess the mandatory transport documents for the 66 pounds of crab they had in the vehicle. The crab and vessel were seized for forfeiture proceedings. Officers will be charging the two in Skagit County with 10 counts of Unlawful Interference 1st degree, Theft 3rd, unlawful transportation, and no driver’s license on person while operating a motor vehicle.

Vessel seized for forfeiture

A String of Bad Luck
If you're drunk, it’s probably a good idea not to ask a cop for a tow.

Officer Stephenson was in the Point Defiance area of Pierce County when an individual came up to her asking for a tow strap or chain to pull him out of the ditch. Officer Stephenson advised him that she did not possess the equipment he needed, but proceeded to drive toward the location where the man indicated he had tried to “pull his truck off the road” and got stuck.

Upon rounding a corner, Officer Stephenson observed what appeared to be skid marks off of the pavement, into the gravel, and.... a white SUV smashed into a tree. It appeared that the individual had taken the corner a bit too fast, and (luckily) the tree stopped what could have been a very exciting descent down a steep hill. Officer Stephenson could smell the odor of alcohol coming from the man, and he admitted to drinking a 24 oz. beer around 9am. Officer Stephenson requested a Trooper to respond to the scene. The subject performed a field sobriety test, although not very well, and was placed under arrest for DUI after blowing a .175. His "string of bad luck," as he called it, would probably not be nearly as bad... if he wasn't a repeat DUI offender.

Clean and Sober?
Officer Kirsch contacted a subject at the Gardener Road boat launch in Burlington who had an expired registration on his truck and no back bumper. As it turns out, he also had no drivers license (revoked). What he did have, however, was a warrant from Marysville PD...

Officer Kirsch noted that the subject was very lethargic, but upon questioning, he was adamant that he was a former drug user and had been clean for seven months. As it turns out, he had just finished injecting heroin. A WSP K-9 unit was brought in and the dog quickly 'hit' on several articles in the cab of the truck. After all the dust settled, Officer Kirsch helped recover an ounce of heroin, two ounces of meth, several hundred grams of pot, (some packaged for sale) and a small amount of hashish. Several heroin needles, meth and marijuana pipes, scales, and packaging were also located in the truck. Charges will be filed in Skagit County -- when the subject is released from the Marysville jail after serving time for his warrant, he will head on over to the Skagit County Jail to serve some time for Possession with Intent to Deliver.

Some of the illegal substances found during the search of the vehicle

Officer Kirsch cuffs the suspect

WSP K-9 Unit

Something's Fishy
While providing an enforcement presence during the ever-popular Spring Chinook season on the Columbia River, Officers Anderson and Scherzinger followed up on a tip from a private citizen. Sergeant Chadwick received information about a man attempting to exceed the daily limit of salmon by catching one salmon in the morning and returning to the river again in the afternoon to continue fishing. Officers Anderson and Scherzinger located the suspect’s camp and waited for him to return. When he arrived at his camp, he decided to lie upon questioning, and told the officers he didn’t catch anything. Suspecting something was fishy, the Officers pressed the suspect until a wild spring Chinook was removed from his boat - only hatchery fish can be kept.

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