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Game Warden Field Notes
The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Hikers’ backpacks hold more than extra socks: Game Wardens Daniel Kessler, Andrew Banda, Erin Albright, Matt Bridgefarmer and Captain Jim Porter teamed up with U.S. Customs and the Texas Department of Public Safety on March 25 to apprehend three drug smugglers who had been operating in the remote areas of Jeff Davis County for some time. When arrested, the three subjects each had backpacks stuffed with marijuana. The total amount came to 145 pounds. The game wardens’ knowledge of the area was a key factor in the apprehensions.
Hole in one alligator proves costly for violator: Harris County Game Warden Bobby Apple received information about someone hunting at night on an abandoned golf course and began a stakeout that extended for several nights over a few weeks. Apple finally found the man on the golf course one evening. After questioning, the man confessed to killing a 7-foot alligator in one of the ponds on the golf course with his bow. The hide, meat, and head were later seized from the man’s house. Several citations were issued.
Frustrated crime victim gets help from wardens and (satellites) above: Harris County game wardens Kevin Creed and Susan Webb along with Liberty County game warden Daniel Diaz and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department on March 27 recovered a 4-wheeler ATV and other items stolen in a burglary. The victim had lost several 4-wheelers, trailers, air conditioning units, copper wire, and a lot of other items in thefts on his property, where he offers hunts for various groups of mobility impaired people and wounded military personnel. He finally had enough and placed a GPS tracking devices on his equipment. With help from the GPS equipment and the game wardens, the missing ATV was recovered and three persons were arrested.
Commercial fishermen not sheepish about sheepshead: Matagorda County game wardens David Janssen and Aaron Koenig, along with Fort Bend County game warden Barry Eversole were patrolling West Matagorda Bay March 27 when they made contact with a commercial shrimp boat coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. While inspecting the boat’s cargo, the wardens discovered seven sacks of sheepshead buried under a large quantity of shrimp. One hundred five fish were seized and sold to the highest bidder. Charges for exceeding the possession limit of sheepshead are pending.
Not quite "Jaws," but close: Brazoria County game warden Scott Jennings received notification on March 29 that a commercial fishing vessel had arrived at Freeport with an eight-foot short-fin mako shark. The crew said the shark leaped into the stern of their boat while they were weighing anchor. Once on board, the fish flipped over their heads, landing forward beside the center console. The crew told Jennings that at one point they had considered abandoning the boat to the shark. Since they couldn’t safely remove the shark from the boat without harming it, they telephoned National Marine Fisheries Service agent Charles Tyer and arranged to purchase a federal highly migratory species permit so that they could legally land the shark.
Game wardens inspect fish markets: Game wardens with the assistance of Asst. Chief Robert Goodrich, Lt. Fred Ruiz and Lt. Andy Ozuna recently conducted a two-day inspection of retail fish dealers in San Antonio. Six teams inspected licenses and invoices at more than 60 businesses during the two-day operation. The wardens issued 15 citations for no retail fish dealer license, no finfish import license, and not having the proper paper work for protected finfish. Five warnings were also issued.
A very expensive buck: Dimmit County game warden Gene Fernandez wrapped up on March 5 a six-day investigation on a case involving an out-of-state oil field worker who shot a big 9-point buck at an RV park on the Nueces River in January. The man not only shot the buck at night with a light without landowner consent, he used a .17-caliber HMR rim fire rifle, had no valid Texas hunting license, and tagged it with a tag he "got from a friend." After speaking with several people who saw the deer just after it got shot, the warden received a phone call from someone else who told him the head had been taken to a taxidermist in Louisiana, but that one of the subject’s family members was going to pick it up and destroy it. Before that could happen, Fernandez contacted a Louisiana Fish and Game agent who found the head and cape. The same day, Fernandez received a call from the suspect, who said he was on his way down from North Texas to meet with him. With help from a Laredo-based U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, the subject was interviewed and gave a statement. Fernandez and the Dimmit county attorney filed two Class A misdemeanors: hunting at night and hunting with a light; and two Class C charges of hunting without a valid license and illegal means and methods. The case was also referred to USFWS for a possible felony Lacey Act violation. The violator pled guilty to all the charges on March 17, had his .17-caliber HMR scoped rifle forfeited to the state as well as having his hunting license denied for the next five years in Texas and all the other Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact states. He also will be making restitution for a buck that scored 132 5/8. The incident will end up costing the violator roughly $10,000.
Javelina heads-up: Webb County game warden Colt Gaulden filed 39 cases including hunting javelina without a license, waste of game, and over limit on javelina March 25. Earlier, warden Gaulden entered a camp and found a cache of hidden javelina heads while the hunters were gone. Warden Gaulden later contacted the hunters, who denied hunting javelinas until Gaulden reminded them of the javelina heads he had found hidden in the brush 30 yards behind their camp.
National Wild Turkey Federation honors game warden: Dallam/Hartley County game warden Adam Clark received the National Wild Turkey Federation’s State Game Warden of the Year Award at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting on March 31. National Wild Turkey Federation President Robert Linder, Chairman Peter Holt and Executive Director Carter Smith presented the award to Clark.
Wardens assist in plane crash response: Motley County game warden Matthew Cruse and Dickens County game warden Danny Kessel assisted local law enforcement and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers following an airplane crash in Dickens County that claimed the lives of the pilot and two passengers. Hazardous weather conditions appear to be the primary cause of the crash.
New TPWD vessel commissioned: TPWD Patrol Vessel Barry Decker was commissioned March 26 in Port O’Connor. Speakers for the ceremony were retired game warden Bobby Colston, retired warden and Harrison County Sheriff Tom McCool, Game Warden Sgt. Bradley Chappell, Col. Peter Flores, and State Rep. Doug Miller. Several Barry Decker’s family members also were on hand.
Threatened turtles rescued: Hidalgo County game warden Harry Rakosky conducted a "welfare check" at a McAllen residence March 20 after receiving word of Texas tortoises being held there. The family confirmed they had eight of the threatened species, showing the officer where they were. Rakosky explained the protected status of the animals and confiscated them, transferring them to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. Later the turtles were taken to the Brazoria National Wildlife system and released.
Wardens find marijuana in boat: Game wardens Jason McFall and Brad Meloni arrested two individuals in possession of 1,248 pounds of marijuana on March 31. The suspects had cut holes in the floorboard of their 21-foot Kenner to hide the contraband. The pair was arrested and the case turned over to the Kingsville Tri-County Task Force. Game Wardens Matt Strauss and Royce Ilse assisted in the investigation.
Dive team assists Texas Rangers: The TPWD Law Enforcement Division dive team responded to a call for assistance from the Texas Rangers and Ellis County Sheriff’s Office on March 22 following the discovery of decomposed human remains near a body of water. The last person seen with the victim claimed the person had died accidentally. But when TPWD divers found a still-loaded handgun in the water, the investigation took a different turn. A suspect has now been charged with the homicide.
Search warrant leads to felony indictments: A Harris County Grand Jury returned indictments March 31 against two Houston corporations and two individuals for felony water pollution. The corporations along with one individual, the principal owner, were charged with two counts each. The second individual was charged with one count. This case was worked by Game Warden Sgt. Cynthia Guajardo-Sorrell and the Houston Police Department’s Major Offenders Unit. The indictments stem from a search warrant served two years ago at a Houston engine rebuild and auto repair operation.
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