March 2 – 29, 2022
To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers’ (CPOs, or previously called game wardens) activities, the “Virginia Conservation Police Notebook” provides an overview of activities encountered by our officers who protect natural resources and people pursuing outdoor recreation in the fields, woods and waters of Virginia. These reports are prepared from the officer’s field notes by Kim McCarthy, Executive Assistant of the Law Enforcement Division of DWR. These CPO reports show the value of concerned citizens, landowners and true sportsmen in providing tips to law enforcement officers on suspected violations by lawbreakers who give other outdoor enthusiasts an undeserved bad reputation.
CPOs Meet with Nansemond River Preservation Alliance – On March 8, 2022, Conservation Police Sergeant Mark Brewer and K-9 CPO Bonnie Braziel met with the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance in Suffolk. The officers discussed the role of the Conservation Police Officer in enforcing the hunting, fishing, trapping, and boating laws of the Commonwealth. Other topics of discussion included cultural carrying capacity versus biological carrying capacity, chronic wasting disease, the important role of hunters in conservation and techniques for handling nuisance species. The officers brought pelts from native Virginia species to show the group which spawned a discussion of some invasive species in the Commonwealth. The highlight of the presentation was K-9 Grace, which was no surprise. CPO Braziel discussed the many ways the department uses K-9s in support of our mission. Approximately 40 adults attended the meeting, and the lively and engaging group asked many good questions that kept the officers on their toes. The presentation was well received by the group.
Several Charges Placed on Illegal Turkey Hunter – On March 9, 2022, Conservation Police Officers received a complaint that someone was dropped off to illegally hunt turkeys in a field on Webb Road in Disputanta. CPO Dan Smith responded to the area shortly after receiving the complaint and passed a truck matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle on a nearby road. CPO Smith turned around to follow the truck and noticed it was obviously speeding up to avoid him from catching up to the vehicle. As CPO Smith rounded a bend in the road, he approached a school bus stopped in the road and the truck was nowhere to be found. CPO Smith then observed the truck turning around in a nearby driveway and pulled in to talk to the driver. While conversing about the turkey hunting complaint, CPO Smith observed a shotgun in the front passenger seat, an individual with a shotgun in the back seat and a dead turkey in the back of the truck. The subjects eventually admitted to illegally hunting turkeys out of season and trespassing on private property after being confronted with the evidence. CPO Smith, and K9 CPO Braziel, returned to the scene of the incident and located turkey feathers and a shotgun shot cup as evidence to confirm the place of kill. Charges were placed for the violations.
Illegal Waterfowl Hunters Charged – Conservation Police Officer Dobyns recently completed an investigation that began on January 31, 2022. Dobyns received a report from a concerned Essex County resident regarding illegal waterfowl hunting during the closed season. Upon arriving on scene, CPO Dobyns located evidence consistent with recent waterfowl hunting in the area. Utilizing his knowledge of the waterfowl hunters in the area, Dobyns was able to develop two possible suspects. Upon interviewing the suspects, Dobyns determined the two hunters had killed two wood ducks during the closed duck season and failed to make a reasonable effort to retain one of the ducks in their possession (wanton waste). Charges were placed for the wanton waste of wildlife and hunting during a closed season.
Illegal Dumping of an Unwanted Boat – On March 15, 2022, Conservation Police Officer Dobyns was on patrol along RT 17 in Middlesex County when he observed a boat that appeared to have been abandoned alongside the highway. Upon closer inspection, Dobyns found that the Virginia registration numbers and hull identification number had been removed. Utilizing his knowledge in marine fraud and theft investigation, Dobyns was able to determine the last registered owner of the vessel. Upon making contact with the owner, Dobyns questioned him about the status of his vessel. Dobyns determined the owner of the vessel had purposely removed the hull identification number and registration numbers due to its poor condition and dumped the vessel along RT 17 in Middlesex County. Appropriate charges were placed for the dumping violations and the VIN number removal.
Investigation Comes to a Close – In the fall of 2021 on Thanksgiving day, Conservation Police Officer Nevel received an anonymous tip that a hunter had illegally shot from a state road located in Lancaster County. CPOs Nevel, Sgt. Bumgarner, K9 Officer Patrillo and K9 Bailey responded to the area. K9 Bailey was deployed and she was able to locate two shot wads in a wooded area adjacent to the road. It was determined that the shots were fired from the wooded area and not the road. Officers also determined that the wooded area was located on Virginia Department of Forestry land which only allows the use of archery equipment or muzzleloader firearms. With this information, CPO Nevel started her investigation and was able to identify a suspect. According to DWR game check records, the suspect had not checked a deer in on that day. With the assistance of a regional wildlife biologist and CPO Morris, Nevel was able to uncover several DMAP violations with the suspect as well as uncovering the details of the unchecked deer that started it all. The end result was a total of 6 game violation charges placed against the suspect.
Virginia Conservation Police Participate in Outreach Events – Conservation Police Officers from District 14 participated in multiple outreach events over the weekend. On Saturday, March 19, CPOs Joe Rollings, Dan Smith, and Cody Barnes conducted a boating education class for the Surry County Sheriff’s Office and Surry Fire/EMS. Also that day, the officers participated in a program at a local hunt club in Southampton County for approximately 80 members discussing various wildlife topics. On Saturday March 20, CPO Rollings and K9 Officer Braziel assisted with a turkey hunting workshop at a local hunt club. This class offered more in-depth information about turkey hunting and safety while in the woods.
CPO Arrests Wanted Subject at Appomattox Riverside Park without Incident – On March 17, 2022, Conservation Police Officer Chester conducted a foot patrol of the Appomattox Riverside Park located in Dinwiddie County. As he entered the park, he ran the registration of an occupied vehicle that was parked near a picnic pavilion. CPO Chester also ran the registered owner of the vehicle which returned with outstanding warrants from Henrico County for kidnapping, two firearm offenses, destruction of property and an assault. CPO Chester was able to make contact with the occupant of the vehicle and identified the person as the wanted subject. Chester was able to take the subject into custody without incident for the outstanding warrants. During the contact, CPO Chester was able to locate and seize a firearm that Henrico County Police indicated was the weapon used in the kidnapping incident.
CPO Training Solves Reckless Handling Case – CPO Keith Wilson and K9 CPO Tyler Blanks, along with his K9 partner, recently followed-up on an investigation in Amherst County. A shed had been shot with a rifle while the shed owner was inside, but fortunately, the bullet had not struck him. The shed owner had reason to believe that his neighbor had fired the shot. Using investigative techniques, the officers determined that the shot came from the neighbor’s house. They soon contacted him and as a result, determined that his son had fired the shot. The officers believed that something was still strange about the incident and soon discovered that the father was a convicted felon who had solicited his friend to come pick up the firearms after the complainant had questioned him. The officers contacted the friend who received the firearms learning that he had an active protective order and was restricted from possessing them. This investigation took almost an entire shift, with charges placed against all three individuals.
Men’s Ignite Event – On March 11, 2022, CPO First Class Cory Harbour and Sgt. Sonny Nipper provided a display for the Ignite Event, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg. The large-scale event attracts hundreds of attendees each year and the officers spent considerable time answering questions and speaking with participates who were interested in outdoor activities. They utilized a marked patrol vehicle and the Region Command trailer to highlight their display, along with several forfeited trophy antlers and a forfeited trophy bear. Many attendees took pictures and selfies with the bear and were very interested in the stories behind the forfeited antlers. The officers also provided regulation books and recruitment information to multiple people at the event.
Atkins Elementary School Career Day – On Wednesday March 9, 2022, Conservation Police Officer Tyler Sheets assisted DWR Staff with a career day event for the students of Atkins Elementary School, in Smyth County. Officer Sheets was accompanied by Terrestrial Biologist Bill Bassinger, Hunter Education Coordinator Jeff Pease, CWF Coordinator Steve Gregory, and Fisheries Biologist Assistant Weston Pease. Each DWR staff member spoke to different groups of students about what their daily responsibilities are and the overall mission of the Department. The students were able to get hands on experience with antlers, fur pelts, and other representations of the native wildlife species found in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Smyth County Hunter Education Class – On Saturday March 5, 2022, Conservation Police Officer Tyler Sheets assisted DWR Volunteer Instructors with a Hunter Education Class at the Saltville – Rich Valley Lions Club. This class was led by Andy Hunt, one of Region Three’s most tenured Volunteer Instructors, who was assisted by Chief John Clair of Marion PD, one of the Region’s newest Volunteer Instructors. This class was attended by a very diverse group of students who were actively involved in the learning experience. Each student achieved a passing score on the test and were presented with their Hunter Education Certificates.
Complaints of Night Hunting in Caroline County – On Friday, February 25, 2022 Master CPO Daniel Eller, and CPO First Class Daniel Newton, had court in Caroline County for multiple spotlighting offenses that had occurred during the past hunting season. Based on information that they were receiving, complaints of night hunting in Caroline were still being received. Based on this information, both officers decided to conduct another spotlighting patrol later that evening. While on patrol, CPO Newton observed a white pick-up truck shine two fields in multiple locations. After conducting a traffic stop, CPO Newton observed a dog box in the bed of the truck that contained multiple hunting dogs. Upon questioning, the driver of the truck initially stated that he was out looking for his hunting dogs, but later changed his story and advised that he was looking for foxes. A search of the vehicle yielded multiple firearms. After the investigation concluded, the appropriate charges were issued.
Fishermen Trespassing Receive Summons – On March 6, 2022 Senior Conservation Police Officer Chambers, and Senior K9 Conservation Police Officer Ostlund, were on a foot patrol on the North River near the town of Bridgewater. The Officers found vehicles and were looking for the fishermen when they observed human tracks traveling beyond no trespassing signs. The Officers located three individuals fishing. As Senior Officer Chambers approached one of the individuals, the subject immediately threw their fishing rod in the river and crossed the water in an attempt to evade the Officers. The other two suspects were issued summons and the third suspect that evaded them was located shortly thereafter. Summons were issued for the violations.
Suspects Found Guilty in Unlawful Sale of Wildlife – In 2021, Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Law Enforcement personnel developed several suspects in an ongoing turtle sale. The investigation led to two suspects selling turtles from a business in Waynesboro. One suspect was acting as the point of contact for online advertising and was the store operator. The second suspect was raising the turtles in a pond in their residence then would replenish the supply in the store when the turtles had been purchased. Senior Conservation Police Officers (CPO) Chambers and Ostlund along with Master CPO Kester, and CPO Sgt. Dobbs coordinated a joint effort with DWR Special Operations, Waynesboro Police Department, and Virginia State Police. The Agencies executed search warrants where the turtles were being held. The search warrants yielded two cell phones and included at least 10 different instances in which someone contacted the suspects to purchase turtles. In total, 16 charges were obtained for the unlawful sale of wildlife. In court, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case. In total, the two suspects were found guilty of four counts of unlawful sale of wildlife, fined $2000, sentenced to 30 days of suspended jail time with unsupervised probation for 1 year; and, neither suspect is allowed to possess wildlife for one year.
Annual Trout Stream Clean-up – On March 19, 2022, the Shen-Co Troutfitters in conjunction with VDWR hosted the 6th annual Trout Stream Clean-Up on Mill Creek and Stoney Creek in Shenandoah County. CPOs from District 41 and 46, including both Region 4 K9s, were joined by several DWR Fisheries and Aquatic Biologists and Media Production staff as well as approximately 150 local volunteers to assist in this year’s clean-up effort. Over 3000 lbs. of litter were removed from the streams! After the litter was removed and deposited in the county landfill, both streams received a great stocking of trout, which this year included tiger trout! The stream clean-up is an integral grassroots program that allows DWR to increase and maintain properties in the stocked trout program that might otherwise be lost due to litter. After another wildly successful event that saw the highest participation to date, all are looking forward to next year’s 7th annual Stream Clean-Up!
CPOs Present Challenge Coins – On Mar. 21, 2022, Conservation Police Officers Eller and Hawkins presented Machaela and Danica Curry with Challenge coin #104 from District 45. This was for their assistance during the 2021 boating season with a sinking vessel. The vessel had taken wakes over the bow and was actively sinking. With the occupants in a state of panic, Machael and Danica operated their vessel over to the boat and guided the occupants with weight distribution and safety equipment deployment. Their efforts resulted in the passengers managing to keep the boat from fully sinking, as well as the occupants all returning safely to shore. All the occupants praised these two for their efforts, with many advising that they could not swim and would have drowned had it not been for these two providing assistance and instruction. A job well-done ladies! On behalf of District 45 and DWR, we are proud of your contributing efforts to safe boating in the Commonwealth.
OPS Protector Challenge Coin Awarded – On Thursday, March 24, 2022, CPOs from Districts 41 and 47 awarded Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Digital Forensic Examiner Chris Hapsas with the O.P.S Protector Challenge Coin Award. DFE Hapsas assisted CPOs with multiple high-profile cases which resulted in the successful prosecution of multiple poachers. One of the poachers was a serial violator who was committing great harm to Virginia’s wildlife resources. With the help of LCSO DFE Hapsas, violations were detected in 9 jurisdictions throughout the Commonwealth and a global plea was entered into which resulted in about $10,000 in fines and costs, a 25-year hunting privilege revocation, and a 5-year jail sentence. The Protector Challenge Coin Award highlights how collaborative relationships benefit Virginia’s wildlife and those who protect it!
Waterfowl Blind Violator Found Guilty – On January 29, 2022, CPO Hawkins and Sgt. Goszka were on proactive waterfowl patrol when a subject was encountered who had two waterfowl blinds registered to him. Through diligent records checking it was determined that the subject had not bought all of the licenses needed before registering the stationary waterfowl blinds. Officer Hawkins later interviewed the subject when he came ashore and he admitted to not purchasing his licenses because he didn’t know if he was going to hunt that year, exactly why they are required at the beginning. The subject subsequently admitted to purchasing two more blinds in his wife’s name without her consent or knowledge. In total this subject locked up 4,000 yards or 2.27 miles of shoreline. On March 22 the subject went to court for 4 counts of illegal blinds and two counts of borrowing a license. He was found guilty on all six charges and upon Officer Hawkins’s request, his hunting license was suspended for 12 months.
CPO Renders First Aid in Lifesaving Attempt – On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Eller was patrolling Spotsylvania County while on the way to Lake Anna. Officer Eller observed a pickup truck stopped on the right portion of the road. Not sure why the vehicle was on the roadway, Officer Eller marked out with VA DWR dispatch and began to investigate. Officer Eller walked up to the driver’s side door and observed an older male sitting in the driver’s seat. He attempted to make contact with the unknown male when he noticed what appeared to be an exit wound from a gunshot on the upper left portion of his head. Officer Eller noticed the male was still alive but was quickly deteriorating. Officer Eller attempted to open the door, but it was locked. He ran over to the passenger side and tried to open the passenger door, but it was locked. A civilian, who was driving by the area, noticed Officer Eller and stopped to help. Officer Eller shattered the passenger window with his baton to unlock the doors. Officer Eller rendered first aid and instructed the civilian on how to connect the AED pads to the AED. Spotsylvania Fire and Rescue arrived on the scene and took over life-saving efforts. A gun was located on the driver’s floorboard. The scene was turned over to the Spotsylvania Sheriffs’ Office for further investigation.
Safe and Successful Transportation of Captive Deer – March 17, 2022, Master Conservation Police Officer Eller received information that an individual in Spotsylvania County was holding a deer as a pet. He reached out to Biologist Ferdinandsen so that an operational plan could be developed. On March 24, 2022, Master Officer Eller and Officer First Class Newton arrived at the suspect’s address while Biologist Jordan Greene and Biologist Joe Ferdinandsen stood by until the scene was secure. While on scene Eller spoke with the homeowner who was the father of the suspect. He advised the officers there was a deer in the home and it had been their pet for two years. When the officers looked inside the home they observed a two-year-old fully grown doe walking freely inside the home. The biologists with the help of both officers were able to successfully load the captive deer into a large deer box. The deer was placed in the biologists’ possession and transported away. Personnel from both divisions worked well as a team to conduct a safe and successful operation.
K9 Team Receives Generous Donation – On Mar. 16, 2022, CPO K9 Officer Bonnie Braziel and her K9 Partner Grace, attended the NWTF Tidewater Chapter Banquet at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, VA. At this banquet, NWTF Tidewater Chapter President, Clifford Dietz, honored a commitment he made almost 3 years ago to K9 Grace and the rest of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources K9 teams. It was Clifford’s goal to auction off an item at the banquet and have all proceeds donated to the VDWR K9 Teams for dog supplies, equipment, and whatever else was needed. After not having a banquet since 2019, 2022 was the year to make it happen. An etching by John Willis was auctioned off and a surprise gun was also auctioned off. Between the two items, CPO K9 Officer Bonnie Braziel and her K9 Partner Grace, received a check for $1050 that will be deposited in the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation’s “Conservation Police K9 Program” fund! The K9 Teams with VDWR could not be more appreciative, thankful, and grateful to the NWTF Tidewater Chapter President, Clifford Dietz, and the two generous donors for contributing to the agency.