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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-12-12                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Dec. 12, 2008
Game Wardens Arrest Men for Illegal Deer Trapping, Sale
AUSTIN, Texas -- Game wardens in the Special Operations Unit of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Division have arrested six men and executed two search warrants as part of Operation Texas Shuffle, a year-long investigation into the black market deer trade in Texas.
"Our focus here is stopping two main areas of criminal activity: deer being brought illegally across state lines, and wild deer being illegally laundered into deer breeding facilities," said Col. Pete Flores, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement director.
Five of the men were arrested yesterday, including William Kornegay, 42, of Eden in Concho County; James Johnson, 60, of Florence in Williamson County; and Jeff Arbogust, 48, of Austin in Travis County, Chris Sharp, 33, of Marble Falls in Burnet County; and Ronald Rogers, 39, of San Saba in San Saba County. The sixth suspect, Lance Clawson, 40, of Regency in Mills County, turned himself in this morning.
All six are alleged to have trapped, purchased or sold wild native whitetail deer. In addition, Rogers, Clawson and Kornegay are involved with permitted deer breeding facilities and are believed to have laundered wild deer into the permitted facilities. Kornegay serves as an agent for multiple licensed deer breeders. In one case, Clawson, a permitted deer breeding facility operator, allegedly darted wild deer and put them illegally into his facility.
Deer breeding is a legal and growing business in Texas, estimated by one breeder organization to be worth about $650 million per year for the state economy. It is illegal to capture or obtain wild deer and place them into breeding facilities. Breeders must obtain captive, pen-raised deer from other permitted breeders. There are currently 1,099 permitted deer breeders in Texas, holding 86,989 deer in 1,161 facilities. The vast majority of these are whitetail deer, and the rest are mule deer, the two native species in Texas.
"Money is driving the illegal trade in wild native deer," said Capt. Greg Williford with TPWD Law Enforcement Division's Special Operations Unit. "A captive-raised breeder buck can sell for tens of thousands of dollars. So, catching deer in the wild seems a lot less expensive, until you get caught."
TPWD regulates deer breeding, issuing permits and conducting periodic facility inspections as warranted. A particular concern is monitoring breeding facilities for diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD has not been detected in Texas, but it has cost tens of millions of dollars in other states. Texas borders essentially remain closed to the importation of whitetail and mule deer because of disease concerns.
Clawson and Rogers were previously apprehended Oct. 16 by Texas game wardens and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents for smuggling eight deer into Texas from Oklahoma. Such interstate smuggling is not only illegal but also poses a disease threat to native whitetail deer.
Numerous Class B misdemeanors (fines up to $2,000 and up to 180 days confinement) have been filed on all six men for violating state Trap, Transport, and Transplant regulations relating to whitetail deer. As the investigation continues, additional charges and arrests are anticipated, including possible felony charges of tampering with a government document, and possible illegal possession of tranquilizer drugs, also a felony.
Based on where the alleged offenses occurred, county attorneys in Mills, Bell, Lampasas and Concho Counties will be prosecuting the misdemeanor charges.
Anyone who observes illegal deer trapping, sale or purchase in Texas should call Operation Game Thief toll-free at (800) 792-GAME. OGT is Texas' privately funded wildlife crime stoppers hotline, operating 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Rewards of up to $1,000 may be paid to callers (who may remain anonymous). Game wardens recommend making the call immediately when illegal activity is observed, and say it is helpful to have a description of the activity, location of the violation, physical descriptions of alleged violators, description of any vehicles and the direction of travel.
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Dec. 12, 2008
TPWD Sets Panhandle Pheasant Scoping Meetings
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is asking for public input on possible changes to the traditional first weekend in December opening date for pheasant season in the Panhandle. A series of scoping meetings is set for January to give the public additional opportunities to comment.
"The purpose of this discussion is to gain feedback from hunters and landowners regarding the possibility of opening future pheasant seasons the Friday after Thanksgiving to afford hunters a three-day holiday weekend to enjoy pheasant hunting," said Vernon Bevill, TPWD game bird program director.
The current pheasant season framework calls for opening the first Saturday in December for 30 consecutive days.
No immediate changes to the pheasant season framework are being considered in order to ensure the public has ample opportunity to weigh in on the discussion.
TPWD will present all rule change proposals to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission for consideration in January. The Commission will determine which rule change proposals will be published in the Texas Register for public comment and only after additional public comment is received next spring will the Commission decide whether or not to take final action.
Any change to pheasant season could take effect Nov. 27, 2009 or be delayed until Nov. 26, 2010 to give hunters and outfitters ample time to make travel plans.
In addition to the following scoping meetings, the public is encouraged to participate in an informal online scoping survey available on the TPWD home page http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/ by clicking on the Public Comments link. Public input can also be made in writing to Vernon Bevill, TPWD Game Bird Program Director, 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744 or at one of the upcoming scoping meetings; locations and dates to be determined.
Pheasant Scoping Meetings
--Jan. 12, 2009 -- Dimmitt -- Dimmitt City Hall, 201 East Jones
--Jan. 13, 2009 -- Dalhart -- First National Bank, 302 Denrock Ave.
--Jan. 14, 2009 -- Amarillo -- Texas A&M University Agricultural Research & Extension Center, 6500 Amarillo Blvd. West
--Jan. 15, 2009 -- Spearman -- Hansford County Courthouse, County Courtroom, 2nd Floor, 12 N.W. Court
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Dec. 12, 2008
Texans Urged To Help Stop Invasive Plants
Horned Lizard License Plate Helps Fund Solutions
AUSTIN, Texas -- As the Texas landscape changes colors this season, untrained observers may be admiring species which are actually invasive and damaging to the Lone Star State. In order to protect Texas wildlife and restore the state to its original beauty, experts are urging citizens to try to identify these invasive species, and avoid spreading their impact this holiday season.
During the fall and winter, several invasive plants flourish and are easy to recognize. Most of these troublesome invaders are non-native exotics; they were brought here from far-off places and can cause serious problems for people and for native plants and animals. What many people don't know is that they could be unwittingly contributing to the problem by buying these plants and adding them to their land or gardens.
The problem has become so widespread it's given rise to the Pulling Together Initiative, described as "a Texas-sized partnership to manage non-native invasive plants." This group has created a robust Texas Invasives Web site containing a large plant database to help people identify and control invaders. The initiative is launching a new program called Invaders of Texas. This volunteer campaign is run by "citizen scientists" who detect and report invasive species, and it offers free workshops to train participants to slow the spread of harmful invasives and reduce environmental and economic damage.
Another way citizens can help, besides getting educated and acting to stop invasive species, is by purchasing a Texas Horned Lizard License Plate for their car, truck, motorcycle or trailer. Sales of this specialty plate are helping to pay for the Texas Invasives Web site and the new Invaders of Texas program.
"If a plant flourishes everywhere, in any climate, and reproduces easily, it might become invasive," says Kelly Bender, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department urban wildlife biologist. "Most invasive species are not regulated in our state, so the best thing people can do is become educated and refrain from buying and spreading them."
Bender says three species to look out for this season include:
--Chinese tallow -- an exotic tree with leaves that change to bright red in fall. Chinese tallow was originally brought to the region for soap production and ornamental purposes. Unfortunately, the plant is so aggressive that it out-competes all other plants in its path. Areas that were once coastal meadows are now completely covered in dense stands of tallow trees, and habitat for Attwater's greater prairie chickens, dickcissels, and other grassland-loving species is being lost.
--Ligustrum -- an evergreen often used in home landscaping, this large shrub completely replaces the understory (shrub-layer) by shading out all other plants, especially in woodlands near water. Among other negative results, this causes increased erosion that can turn crystal clear springs into murky waterways.
--Giant cane -- a tall grass that can choke natural waterways, originally introduced for erosion control and ornamental use.
The Texas Wildlife Action Plan identifies invasive exotic species as a significant problem statewide, one that can "displace native species, threaten habitat integrity and can profoundly alter the landscape." The annual cost of invasive species to the U.S. economy has been estimated at more than $130 billion.
Invaders of Texas was created to increase early detection, reporting and monitoring of invasive species in critical wildlife habitats of Texas, reducing damage to the native landscape and helping to preserve threatened and endangered species. Volunteers use a kit to identify and report invasive species in their area. That information is then validated and delivered into a statewide database and to agency partners who can take action.
The Texas Horned Lizard License Plate is one of four conservation plates that support the work of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Each of these specialty license plates costs $30 (in addition to regular vehicle registration fees), with $22 going to fund conservation efforts across Texas.
All four of TPWD's conservation plates are available for motorcycles and trailers and can be purchased at any time; it's not necessary to wait for a registration renewal notice. Plates can be purchased online or at any county tax office, and will be ready for pickup in about two weeks. More information about the department's conservation plates, including specifics about conservation efforts funded by plate sales, is on the TPWD Web site.
---
On the Net:
http://www.conservationplate.org/
http://www.texasinvasives.org/
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[ Note: This item is more than six years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Aaron Reed, 512-389-8046 ] [AR]
Dec. 12, 2008
Game warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Rodeo in Sonora: On Nov. 30, a Sutton County Game warden received a call about two buck deer attached at the antlers by a large entanglement of wire. One of the deer was alive and the other was dead after being gored by a third buck deer. The location of the call was in the town of Sonora and several spectators were at the scene when the game warden arrived. A plan was developed and the necessary equipment, two ropes and wire cutters, were obtained. With help from a Sonora police department officer, who managed to rope the head of the deer while the game warden roped the back feet, the deer was stretched out in true rodeo head and healer fashion and the wire was cut from the bucks' heads. The surviving buck was last seen jumping a fence and leaving town at a high rate of speed.
Worth a thousand words: Also on Nov. 30, an Operation Game Thief call came into Houston Communications at 2:00 a.m. about shots being fired in Liberty County. A game warden went to investigate the call. The game warden slow-rolled down a dirt road near the area where the shots were reported, and saw two people entering a house. She pulled into the drive and saw a 10-point buck on the ground. Upon being questioned, one of the subjects stated that he had shot the deer at 5:30 that evening and that it had run away and he had been looking for it ever since. He said he found the deer a little while ago, and it was still alive and he shot it again. The game warden took the subject with her to follow the tire tracks from the riding lawnmower that was used to move the deer to where the deer was killed. While looking at the spot where the deer was killed, the game warden saw a game camera on the tree and took the memory chip out of it. She noticed a light pole above the corn feeder with a drop light at the top. She and the subject then followed the extension cord from the light, across the yard to where it went into a bedroom window. The warden put the subject's camera chip into her camera and looked at the photos. One showed the deer standing there eating; in the next it was on the ground, and in the next the subject was standing over the deer with a gun. Each picture had the date and time stamped on it. Charges pending.
The desert has ears: In a remote store, in a remote part of southern Brewster County, a hunter bragged to a comrade about his deeds. This led to an Operation Game Thief call to by a concerned citizen. This led to a day's worth of investigation that involved two game wardens. A total of five poachers were filed on for numerous violations including hunting mule deer without landowner consent (state jail felonies) and other Class A, B, and C misdemeanors. One hunter went to jail. Cases pending.
A bagful of poachers: On Nov. 29, a game warden responded to a trespassing complaint in northern Titus County. A gentleman was sitting in his deer stand waiting for a large deer he had seen when he heard a gunshot from another section of his property. The gentleman investigated and found a 19-year-old male trespassing and standing over the big deer he had been hunting. The 19-year-old had snuck into the ranch from an adjacent property and had already been warned about trespassing. While the gentleman was dealing with the poacher, three more trespassers drove up on an ATV to see what their poacher friend had shot. Just as the game warden arrived, he caught two more hunters coming off the edge of the property. One large 8-point buck was seized, three subjects were cited, and numerous trespassing citations were issued.
Live-baiting road hunters: Two Nueces County game wardens and a San Patricio County game warden ran a decoy operation that paid off, but not in the way they had planned. As the wardens were setting up, a vehicle approached that caused the wardens to take cover, leaving the gate open. The occupants of the vehicle noticed the gate open and were nice enough to stop and close the gate. The wardens set up their decoy, and the hours went by with no takers. As the wardens were taking down the set, the same vehicle came by, stopped at the gate and an occupant made the comment: Oh good, the gate is locked now, they must be gone. The vehicle moved a short distance down the road and shot a live doe in front of the wardens. Cases filed.
Shrimp on the rocks: Game wardens and a TPWD boat mate assisted the U.S. Coast Guard with a shrimp boat accident. During the early morning hours while the Gulf of Mexico was extremely rough, a gulf shrimp boat struck the jetties at South Padre Island. The shrimp boat was stuck on top of the rocks and leaking large amounts of diesel fuel. The Capt. Williams was used to assist with the recovery and the chemical spill. Approximately 18,000 gallons of diesel fuel was lost. The captain was transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
No, you can't buy (or sell) it: On Nov. 25, a Garland law enforcement clerk received a call from someone inquiring about the legality of selling deer meat. The caller forwarded the clerk an Internet posting by a man attempting to sell a deer he had at a processor in Garland. The clerk quickly forwarded the e-mail to the district supervisor, who contacted a Dallas County game warden to investigate. The game warden arrived at the processor before the exchange took place and parked in the back of the building. The game warden then identified and filed on the seller for illegal sale of white-tailed deer meat. He then had the seller wait inside until the buyers arrived and observed the purchase of the meat. The game warden then filed on the buyer for illegal purchase of white-tailed deer meat. The deer meat was seized.
Probably not part of the curriculum: A Uvalde County game warden received a call from an off-duty San Antonio police officer who found a deer carcass with the head removed on a neighboring ranch where he was hunting. During the course of his investigation, the game warden interviewed a subject who was living and working on the ranch where the deer carcass was found. The subject admitted to killing the 8-point buck deer and getting rid of the carcass after removing the head because he did not need any more deer meat. The subject is a student at the local junior college majoring in Wildlife Science. Class A Waste of Game, harvest log and tagging violations were filed. The game warden also managed to file on a subject for driving in a protected freshwater area (driving in the river) on the Frio River.
Oops: On Nov. 17, a Wheeler County game warden filed on a Fairfield man for over bag limit on whitetail bucks. The case resulted from the game warden finding deer remains dumped on the side of a country road, in a box. The box just happened to have a sales tag with names attached to it.
License cheater nabbed: A Hays County game warden was sitting outside of a ranch watching a vehicle and waiting for the owner to return. Thirty minutes after sunset, a camera flash went off about 50 yards from the truck and then two men got in the truck and took off at a high rate of speed inside the ranch. When the hunters were located, the game warden found one of the hunters in possession of a free military super combo license. The only problem was he had been out of the military for three years. He had used an expired ID to get a free license two years in a row. An 8-point buck was seized and cases are pending.
Wrong state, wrong country, wrong ranch: A Presidio County game warden received a call that two illegal aliens with .30-30 rifles had been taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol in Big Bend Ranch State Park. After questioning the two suspects, he learned that this was their third hunting trip this year and that they had come on three hunting trips last year killing a total of three aoudads and two mule deer. Federal and state charges are pending.
Stores have ears, too: Nov. 12, while shopping in Lufkin off duty, a Nacogdoches County game warden overheard a store employee tell another that he killed an old buck on his farm with a .22-cal. mag. Shortly after the conversation was completed, the game warden approached the subject, identified himself, and notified an Angelina County game warden. After further investigation, the violator was filed on for taking white-tailed deer by illegal means.
Ice chest key to anglers' rescue: On Nov. 15, Matagorda County Game wardens rescued two fishermen from the waters of East Matagorda Bay. The two men were caught in the open bay by a strong cool front that passed through the area that morning and their boat capsized after it took on water due to the strong winds. The two men were wearing life jackets, and were smart enough to grab and hang onto a large empty ice chest. One of the men managed to call for help on his cell phone. The game wardens responded, locating the men approximately one mile from their overturned boat. One game warden said that due to the rough bay conditions they might not have located them as soon as they did if it had not been for the ice chest they were clinging to. By the time they were picked up by the wardens, the men had been in the water for about 45 minutes and were already showing signs of hypothermia.
Once again, poaching in front of a game warden not a good idea: A Menard County game warden along with a Menard County sheriff's deputy apprehended three subjects hunting deer from the roadway. The game warden and his wife went to visit a deputy and his wife. The game warden had been at the deputy's house for about 15 minutes when the subjects drove by and shot at a group of deer in front of the deputy's house. Both officers were standing in the front yard when the subjects drove by and shot. A pair of homemade brass knuckles and a .22 rifle were taken from the subjects. Citations were issued for hunting in closed season and discharge of a firearm from a public roadway.
Text messages lead to cases: On Nov. 16, while inspecting a deer camp on the Louisiana state line, Marion County game wardens checked a Louisiana resident who had been filed on the previous year. After a short interview, the hunter was found to have another Texas resident license even though he was still a Louisiana resident and had already killed one doe and taken it back to Louisiana for processing. The wardens also found fresh deer meat in a cooler they questioned the hunter about. A second hunter was still in the field, so the wardens asked if he could be contacted by cell phone. The first hunter gave one of the game wardens his cell phone to call the second hunter. The game warden noticed there were several new text messages from the second hunter. The warden texted back and forth with the hunter in the field, with the hunter inadvertently admitting to several offenses including taking the untagged deer found in the cooler. The second hunter arrived in camp and was recognized by the other game warden as a prior offender. He had a correct out-of-state license, but the two missing deer tags were found in the hunter's wallet unused. A total of six deer had been illegally killed with two transported across state lines resulting in 20 cases being filed on three hunters. One hunter was arrested and transported to Marion County Jail.
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