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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 30, 2012

Weekly Highlights

Off-Road Fun?

Captain Anderson and Officer McGary spent several hours on ATVs over the weekend, patrolling the seasonally closed Yellow Zone at the Moses Lake Sand Dunes. They contacted and cited approximately a dozen operators who unlawfully ventured into the closure.

Officer McGary cites two operators for riding in a closed area.
The officers also used the ATVs to respond to several serious injury ORV accidents for the sheriff’s office. One young man had flipped his motorcycle and crashed landed. When  Officers arrived, his leg was twisted 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Although he had broken his upper femur, he initially refused aid, saying he thought he could walk out on his own -- now that’s hardcore! Officers also responded to another accident where a woman rolled a quad over on top of her, resulting in a possible broken collarbone. 

That night, Officer McGary and the Captain responded to a serious injury accident that had occurred way back in the dunes between a sand rail and a Chevrolet Suburban. Aid units arrived on scene using 4-wheel drive rigs, and removed the injured female passenger from the rail. Two women in the Suburban were also injured and transported to the hospital. The rail driver, who refused to take a breath test, was taken into custody after Officer McGary tested his sobriety and determined that he was likely intoxicated. The man was transported back to the entrance of the park where a local DRE trooper also determined that the driver would likely register quite high. The responding deputies issued the driver a citation for driving an ORV while intoxicated.

Sand rail that crashed into a Chevy Suburban

Short Crab

Officer Do patrolled Westport and checked commercial crab offloads. During the inspection he noticed one vessel had delivered over 24% undersized crabs. He contacted Officer Hopkins and Student Officer Apple to assist. After measuring all of the crab, Officer Do contacted the vessel's Skipper and notified him that he would be cited. Officer Do conducted another check a few days later and noticed an excess of undersized crab in the offload.  Sgt. Chadwick and Student Officer Apple arrived to assist. After going through the entire offload, there were 132 undersized Dungeness crab, again over 20% of the load was short.  The skipper of the vessel will be cited accordingly.

Rampage in the Woods

Officers McCormick, Day, Busching and Christensen responded to a multi-agency manhunt for a 41-year old armed subject in the Twisp River drainage near War Creek. Officer Day arrived and was notified that an Okanogan County Sheriff's Deputy had responded to a call the previous evening where witnesses reported the subject behaving oddly and armed with a machete. The mentally ill man’s elderly parents were contacted, and confirmed that the suspect had not been taking his medication and had fled from their campsite into the woods with two handguns and a machete. In what can only be described as a bad combination,  the armed man, while high on Oxycontin, had started a small forest fire near the campground. As Forest Service firefighters hiked into the burn area to evaluate the fire, gun shots rang out from the river bottom. All firefighting personnel were quickly evacuated. 

WDFW officers joined with county deputies in setting up a hasty perimeter as intermittent gun shots and shouting rang out through the thick brush near the edge of the forest.  Special Response Teams from Okanogan and Chelan County arrived on scene to help shore up the perimeter. Law enforcement officers used a Forest Service fire truck to knock back some of the hotter areas of the fire that were threatening to cross the road. Other Officers used loudspeakers and aircraft in an attempt to either call out the armed man or pinpoint his position from the air. Once it became clear the subject was not going to come out of the woods, Officers began a careful, coordinated foot search of the area of dense timber and brush. While moving along the edge of the Twisp River with a search team, through thick trees and dense smoke, Officer Day observed 'something' trying to climb a birch tree. Initially he thought it may have been a black bear attempting to escape the mayhem of fire and barking patrol dogs. However, it quickly became apparent that this was no bear, but the subject they were searching for, as Officer Day repeatedly saw the man slip and fall back to the ground. The man's location was relayed to another search team, which finally apprehended the man without incident.

Halibut Season Opener, Marine Area 5

Officers Balazs, Davidson and Sgt. Anderson conducted a boat patrol out of Sekiu for the opening day of the halibut season in Marine Area 5.  This was a highly anticipated season and Officers saw a lot of anglers. While the participation level was quite high, overall success for the fishermen was average.  Most anglers our Officers contacted were following the rules, however, they did have to address a few 'mistakes.'

The worst offense of the day was on a boat in Marine Area 4 (closed for halibut), where Officers found two men fishing for halibut, with one 30-pounder already in possession. The officers also encountered several anglers in violation of rockfish/bottomfish rules. During the Day 1 patrol, Officers boarded 35 vessels and contacted just under 100 fishermen.  Additional violations encountered were failure to record catch, fishing with barbed hooks, and various boating safety violations. 

Officers Balazs and Davidson with some of the illegal "catch of the day!"

Bad Call!

Officer Erickson received an anonymous tip indicating that a group of five people were fishing a closed creek in Pend Oreille County. The caller gave him a vehicle description but no license plate. Officer Erickson quickly responded to the area, but was unable to locate the vehicle. He then patrolled a nearby lake in hopes of finding the suspects, but still no luck...

However, when Officer Erickson returned to the closed creek, he found the suspect vehicle and five people just arriving to camp. He made contact and questioned the group about fishing the creek. The group was able to provide Officer Erickson with receipts from Newport, which proved they had been in town at the time the call came in. Hmmmm. After a little more digging, Officer Erickson identified the anonymous caller and called him back. The caller admitted that he had gotten into a fight with his family earlier in the day because he had not been invited on their annual camping trip. To get back at them, he falsely reported the illegal fishing activity. The caller was cited for making a false report.

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