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Virginia Conservation Police Notebook

April 4-17, 2018

To increase awareness of Conservation Police Officers (CPO’s-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 to Major Scott Naff [Operations] and Major Bryan Young [Administration] of the Law Enforcement Division of DGIF. 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.

Region I – Tidewater

CPO and His Team Successful in Finding Missing Woman – On March 31, 2018, Virginia CPO Joe Rollings was on patrol in Gloucester County when he heard traffic on his county portable radio in regards to a missing 72 year old female. The woman had been reported missing in the area of Beaverdam Park. Rollings immediately notified Gloucester Sheriff’s Office that he was en-route to assist as well as notifying DGIF dispatch. Rollings arrived on scene the same time as Gloucester deputies and assisted with gathering information from the woman’s son. The son was searching for his cell phone he had lost and last saw his mother walk over a hill out of sight. Thirty minutes passed when she didn’t return and he was unable to locate her. At this point, the son, who was in a panic, contacted the park ranger station who called the sheriff’s office. Gloucester K-9 arrived on scene and was unsuccessful in locating the missing woman. York County Police and Fire & Rescue also responded with their drone. They were also unsuccessful in their search. The woman has a pacemaker and the concern of a medical emergency was growing as time continued to pass. CPO Rollings was given an assignment by Gloucester command to work with park staff and search the horse trails throughout the park. While searching their assigned area, Rollings and his team were successful in locating the missing woman who was unharmed. She was safely escorted from the woods. 

Two Individuals Charged with 26 Hunting and Fishing Violations – During the 2017 hunting season CPO Smith utilized unconventional sources to locate evidence of numerous wildlife violations.  In November of 2017 he charged 7 people from the Pungo area of Virginia Beach for hunting without licenses and failing to check game.  During March of 2018 Officer Smith learned that 2 of the same individuals were continuing to hunt and fish without any licenses despite being charged and found guilty from the November offenses.  On March 15th Officer Smith enlisted the help of Officers Braziel and Druy and executed a search warrant of the suspects’ residence in Chesapeake to obtain evidence of the crimes.   The officers seized a large quantity of jerky, goose, and fish from the suspects’ residence.  Afterwards Officer Smith completed his investigation and charged the 2 individuals with a total of 26 hunting and fishing license violations.

Social Media Leads to Charges – While off duty, CPO Braziel received information from CPO Howlett, in New Kent County, that a subject in Norfolk was creating social media posts on a local fishing group’s page.  When told by other users of the site that this action was illegal the subject acknowledged the regulations, but stated that he kept 3 of the largest striped bass anyway because it was overcast and tons of fish were biting.  Officer Braziel responded to the subject’s residence and found a boat and bloody cutting board in the driveway as she approached the front door.  After several minutes of knocking the suspect came to the door and denied any illegal action.  When confronted about the bloody cutting board in the driveway the suspect said that he knew he had to tell the truth.  After admitting the truth to Officer Braziel, the suspect gave her the fish fillets which she donated to a local firehouse.

Littering on WMA – While on patrol on Cavalier WMA, CPO Braziel discovered a recently dumped pile of trash on one of the paths.  Officer Braziel donned a pair of rubber gloves and sifted through the household trash in search of evidence.  She located 2 Walgreens receipts and a letter written to the presumed suspect within the trash pile.  Officer Braziel followed up with an interview of the letter recipient who eventually admitted to dumping the trash on the WMA.  The suspect was charged with littering.

Region II – Southside

Trout Heritage Day Brings a Huge Smile – Ben Taylor, a 15 year old student at Franklin County High School, is proudly displaying a six pound five ounce rainbow trout (the attached photo shows Ben and his father Sam Taylor) that he caught in the Pigg River in Franklin County on Saturday, April 7th.  The river was stocked by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries prior to the opening of Trout Heritage Day, the first Saturday in April. The season opened at 9:00 am and Ben landed the trophy trout at 10:30 am. District 21 Conservation Police Officers spent many hours stocking and patrolling trout streams for both announced and unannounced stockings in Franklin, Henry and Patrick Counties.

Missing Person Search – CPO Bruce Young assisted the City of Martinsville Police Department and the Henry County Sheriff’s Office with locating a missing person.  The 53 year old Martinsville man was found deceased on April 1st in Henry County and was sent to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke to determine the cause of death.  The investigation is continuing.

Search for Missing Person – On March 20, 2018, CPO Toby Livermore received a call from a Brunswick County Deputy requesting assistance to help track a missing Brunswick County man.  A 58 year old man had went missing the night before around 1230 in the morning.  He was highly intoxicated, hallucinating, and was last seen walking up and down Doctor Purdy Road, in Brunswick County, holding two butcher knives in his hands.  CPO Livermore arrived on scene to assist the sheriff’s department.  Shortly afterwards, the knives where located on a tree stump on the side of the road.  The officers decided to line up and push through the woods to try and locate him.  CPO Livermore noticed a hunting path in the woods, and using skills he had learned in man-tracking training, he located a set of footprints in the path (photo of footprint is attached).  He called out to the deputy to bring flags to mark the track.  CPO Livermore followed the tracks down the path and located the missing man just fifty yards from the track.  Unfortunately, he was deceased; however, he was able to help bring closure to his family.

Temporary Escape On Foot –CPO Matthew Akers was conducting a nighttime fishing patrol at Explore Park in Roanoke County when he observed a vehicle parked in the woods behind a building on the property.  When he directed his headlights onto it, two individuals got out and ran into the wooded area.  Officer Akers proceeded to the vehicle and quickly determined why they had ran off; he saw marijuana on the passenger seat.  Conservation Police Sergeant James Slaughter and Senior Officer Michael Morris, along with the National Park Service, responded to the area to help search for the suspects.  A short time later the owner of the vehicle was contacted and Officer Akers made positive identification after discovering that the suspects had returned home.  Both admitted that they had ran when they noticed the light bar on top of the patrol vehicle.  Charges were obtained on both subjects.

Career Day Presentation – Sergeant Karl Martin, CPO Bruce Young and CPO Brett Clawson set up displays for the Annual Career Day Expo at Franklin County High School on April 12, 2018.  Over 1,000 students had the opportunity to interact with the three Conservation Police Officers and to view safety displays that included a 25 ‘ patrol boat, an ATV and a Conservation Police  patrol vehicle.  The displays and pictures depicted our CPO’s performing their duties as law enforcement officers as well as participating in outreach programs that support our agency logo, Conserve, Protect and Connect.  Boating, firearms and ATV safety were highlighted during discussions with the students.

Region III – Southwest

Investigation from Hunting Season Leads to Several Charges – On March 24, 2018, CPO Eric Rorabaugh and CPO Sgt. Adam Keene completed an investigation from hunting season of a subject that had supposedly killed several deer and failed to check them in. Through the investigation, the officers were able to determine the subject had killed 3 deer and failed to check them as required. Also, the subject admitted to shooting one of them from a vehicle with the aid of a spotlight and waterfowl hunted without the required state or federal migratory waterfowl stamps. The father of the subject had also hunted waterfowl without the required state or federal migratory waterfowl stamps. The brother of this subject was also found to have killed a deer and failed to check it as required and did not have a valid hunting license. The appropriate charges were placed.

CPOs Give Safety Tips on the Radio – On Monday, March 26th, 2018, CPOs Nikita Burke and Joel Early met with media representatives at Radio Station 107.3- WXLZ in Russell County, concerning season and safety reminders related to the upcoming spring turkey season. The officers recorded a short public safety announcement directly related to the spring season as well as providing a brief interview about rules and regulations that are in effect and enforced. The PSA and interview segments will air locally throughout WXLZ – 107.3’s listening area before and during the season.

Crooked Creek Fee Fishing Area Violators – On April 2, 2018 CPO Ben Boyette received a call about individuals fishing on the Crooked Creek Fee Fishing Area during the closure for the Heritage fishing weekend. Officer Boyette responded and observed a parked vehicle with two male individuals loading fishing rods into the back and a female sitting in the driver seat of the vehicle. One subject admitted to fishing and had a valid license. The other subjects acted in a suspicious manner and would not give a straightforward answer about what they had been doing. The female driver stated that the vehicle was hers and provided consent to search. Officer Boyette located two partial cases of alcohol, several open alcoholic beverages, as well as marijuana. The female driver, an underage adult, admitted that she had gotten the alcohol from a friend and had supplied it to the two males, both juveniles. Appropriate charges and actions were taken for the violations for all three subjects.

Trout in the Schools Program – On Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018, CPO Nikita Burke met with 7th grade students from Glade Spring Middle School for a continuing Trout in the Schools Program the students have been involved with. Officer Burke assisted the Agricultural Science class with transporting and releasing the trout fingerlings that were hatched and raised by the class. The Trout were released into Wolfe Creek, a stream which is under proposal to be added to the list of Special Regulation Trout Fishing waters, and located within the Town of Abingdon in Washington County.

 Trout Heritage Day Fishing Event Enforcement Efforts – On Saturday, April 4th, 2018, CPO Nikita Burke was conducting a foot patrol along Beartree Lake in Washington County as part of the Trout Heritage Day fishing event enforcement efforts prior to the event opening time of 9:00 a.m., when she observed two individuals begin fishing shortly after their arrival at the Lake at 7:30 a.m.  After making contact with both subjects, the appropriate summonses were issued. Officer Burke conducted over (50) inspections for creel and Fishing Licenses during the event, with an overwhelming majority of the contacts being found compliant.

Charges Placed on Campers at Clinch Mountain WMA – On Friday, April 5th, 2018, CPO Matthew Arnold was patrolling Clinch Mountain WMA as part of District 33’s enforcement efforts related to the Trout Fee Fishing area opening on Saturday, April 7th, 2018. During the patrol, Officer Arnold set up surveillance on a group of subjects who had camped adjacent to the trout stream, which had been stocked three days prior in anticipation for the opening day event. Officer Arnold observed two subjects in the group camping, begin smoking from what appeared to be a homemade device. After his observations confirmed probable cause to investigate further, Officer Arnold made contact with the subjects at the campsite. After brief interviews with the subjects confirmed Marijuana was present at the campsite, Officer Arnold requested additional units and upon arrival of CPO Tyler Sheets; the two subjects observed earlier smoking from the device, admitted to smoking marijuana and were found to be in possession of other drug paraphernalia, as well as loaded firearms consisting of two handguns and a bolt-action rifle. Charges were placed on two of the subjects from the group in the incident, for Marijuana possession and possession of loaded firearms on a Department Wildlife Management Area during closed season for taking game.

Lower than Normal Numbers of Fishermen and Campers on Clinch Mountain WMA – On Friday, April 6th and Saturday, April 7th, 2018 CPOs Tyler Sheets, Joel Early and Andy Rutledge conducted special operation patrols on Clinch Mountain WMA, as part of the Opening  Day for the Trout Fishing Fee Area waters located on Big Tumbling Creek within CMWMA. Lower than normal numbers of fishermen and campers were encountered on opening day, due to the weather and a slide that has blocked travel up through the Gorge. All but sections A and B of the Special Regulation Trout Fee Area waters were closed due to the slide. Enforcement concerns were diminished with the weather and limited access concerns surrounding opening day.

Clinch Mountain WMA Patrol – On Thursday, April 6th, 2018, CPO Joe Early was patrolling Clinch Mountain WMA as part of District 33’s enforcement efforts related to the Trout Fee Fishing area opening on Saturday, April 7th, when he encountered four subjects fishing in Big Tumbling Creek, which had been stocked (2) days prior in anticipation for the opening day event. During the brief interviews that transpired, the four subjects admitted to catching several trout and stated they had been releasing them. Officer Early issued the appropriate summonses to all involved.

Reckless Driver Tries to Elude CPO – On April 8, 2018, CPO Eric Rorabaugh was patrolling the area of Rickey Rd in Wythe County and met a sports car traveling toward him in his lane of travel which caused him to drive off of the road into the grass to avoid being struck. Officer Rorabaugh activated his emergency equipment and attempted to stop the vehicle. The vehicle traveled out of site and the officer was unable to locate it. Later that day, Conservation Police Sergeant Adam Keene was patrolling the area and passed the vehicle on Austinville Rd. He turned on the vehicle and noticed it drive recklessly and increase its speed to elude him. Sgt.Keene initiated a pursuit of the vehicle and was slowly catching it on Rickey Rd, when the vehicle turned into a dirt driveway where the vehicle stopped at a residence. The vehicle had four occupants, one of which was a juvenile. Officer Rorabaugh responded along with Officer Benjamin Boyette, Officer Jason Harris and the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office. The driver stated he ran from the officers because he did not want another reckless driving ticket. The driver was transported and charged with two counts of felony elude a law enforcement officer, two counts of reckless driving, and one count of felony child endangerment.

3rd Annual Lebanon Baptist Association Outdoor Expo – On April 12, 2018; CPOs Nikita Burke and Cody Hash attended the 3rd Annual Lebanon Baptist Association’s Outdoor Expo in Washington County. Along with Wildlife Resources personnel, the officers contacted approximately 400 constituents throughout the night. Many young children were in attendance and won door prizes consisting of outdoor equipment as well as hunting and fishing supplies. The DGIF booth was a popular stop and many questions concerning the Spring Turkey season and Department Wildlife Management areas were answered. Officer Hash gave a short speech to all in attendance concerning Department activities within the Region regarding Department Lands and Facilities and Laws and Regulations impacting participation and use.

 CPO Completes Investigation from Previous Hunting Season – On March 24, 2018; CPO Tyler Sheets completed an investigation from the previous hunting season in reference to a convicted felon hunting with a firearm. In December, Officer Sheets obtained trail camera photos of an individual dragging a deer with an ATV and possessing a firearm during the Thanksgiving Holiday. The landowner advised that this particular individual did not have permission to hunt the property. The subject was identified and a records search of Game Check information showed that the same individual had checked an antlered deer only 15 minutes after the trail camera photo had been taken and was recorded as being taken with Archery equipment. Officer Sheets checked the subject’s criminal history through DGIF dispatch and found the he had a previous felony conviction in 2004. Officer Sheets was also given information that the individual worked out of town and was only home on certain weekends. On Saturday, March 24th Officer Sheets and Officer Hash were able to meet the individual at his residence and conducted an interview in reference to the violations detected. The subject confessed to killing an antlered deer with a firearm, and checking the deer as being taken with a Bow. The appropriate Felony charge on the subject was obtained and the subject was arrested without incident.

Two Subjects Charged with Multiple Hunting Violations– On Sunday, March 11, 2018; CPOs Cody Hash and Tyler Sheets interviewed a subject from the Glade Spring area of Washington County in reference to potential hunting violations from the 2017-18 deer season. During the interview, the subject gave the Officers a confession that led to another subject that had committed similar offenses while the two individuals were hunting together. After obtaining the necessary information, Officers Hash and Sheets went to the second subject’s residence and interviewed him about his actions during the deer hunting season and obtained a confession from that subject as well. The investigation by the Officers revealed that the two individuals had taken multiple antlered deer using both centerfire and rimfire rifles during the Special Archery and Muzzle loading Deer seasons. The first subject had also taken multiple deer with archery tackle and failed to check any of the Deer taken. The second subject was found to not possess any of the required licenses necessary to legally hunt. Both subjects involved in the investigation were charged with multiple violations.

CPOs Conduct Night Special Operation on South Holston Lake – On Saturday, April, 14 2018; CPOs Joel Early, Tyler Sheets, Matthew Arnold, Nikita Burke and Sergeant Daniel Hall conducted a night special operation on South Holston Lake in Washington County specific to the Walleye Fishery and the spawning run up into the Middle Fork and South Fork river arms of the Lake. While fishing activity for Walleye was found to have waned, probably due to the spawning run having peaked the week prior, several motor boats, with fishermen actively engaged catching Crappie; were inspected. The Officers utilized both foot and vehicle patrols as well as two John Boats in unison during the operation. Violations were detected for boat safety equipment violations and the appropriate summonses were issued when warranted.

Region IV – Mountains & Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont

Virginia Taxidermy Association and DGIF Work towards Building a Cohesive Relationship – On Friday, March 23 Senior CPO Beth McGuire, alongside fellow Taxidermy Committee members Biologists Mike Fies and Fred Frenzel met with board members of the Virginia Taxidermy Association (VTA). The attendees discussed having open lines of communication between the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and the VTA via the Taxidermy Committee. Also discussed were the laws and regulations that pertain to taxidermists. The committee took note and gave advice on any the Association wants to pursue altering. The main purpose of the meeting was to begin the process of getting the VTA and DGIF on the same page and building a cohesive relationship between the Department and all Virginia taxidermists.  At the VTA meeting McGuire was commended for her efforts by Vice President Robbie Anderson.

CPO Gives Presentation to Elkton Conservation Club – On April 3rd, CPO Ostlund gave a presentation to the Elkton Conservation Club, in Rockingham County.  The presentation was attended by Elkton Middle School students.  Officer Ostlund discussed the duties and responsibilities of a Conservation Police Officer, encouraged the attendees to continue serving as good stewards of Virginia’s natural and wildlife resources, and discussed the importance of exercising sound judgement when engaging in on-water activities.

You Never Know Where a CPO May Be – On April 7th, as a joint district operation with Districts 41 and 42, CPO Ostlund donned an undercover disguise and participated in Trout Heritage Day on Hawksbill Creek, Page County.  CPO Ostlund was particularly interested in locating and surveilling a group of reported trout poachers that he had received numerous calls about over the preceding weeks.  CPO Ostlund located the persons of interest and coordinated with K9 CPO Billhimer to identify the subjects and perform fishing compliance checks.  K9 CPO Billhimer issued two license-related citations and CPO Ostlund initiated multiple interviews.  The interviews resulted in a confession to exceeding the daily limit of trout and additionally revealed 6 illegal white-tailed deer kills (three of which were antlered bucks).  CPO Ostlund seized three sets of deer antlers and will be consulting with both the Page County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and the Page County Juvenile Intake Office regarding placement of criminal charges.  The investigation is still ongoing and serves as an example of what can be accomplished when ethical sportspersons providing useful information join forces with Virginia’s CPOs.

CPOs Assist in Locating Suicidal Subject in the Woods – On the morning of Tuesday, 4-10-2018, CPO J. Manspile was contacted by the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office and asked to provide assistance in the search of a possible suicidal subject in the area of Arnold Valley which adjoins the Jefferson National Forest. Officer Manspile and Sgt Williams deployed two ATVs and searched along the forest roads adjacent to the subject’s residence while the Rockbridge County officers performed a search of the nearby woods. Deputies found the subject, alive in the woods, but with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Manspile and Williams assisted in transporting the subject out of the woods to the waiting ambulance. The subject passed away prior to being airlifted.

 Special Operations at Chain Bridge and Jones Point – District 47 CPOs conducted plain clothes and uniformed special operations at Chain Bridge in Arlington County and Jones Point in the City of Alexandria on April 14 – 15 in response to complaints regarding illegal poaching of anadromous fish.  Uniformed and undercover CPOs coordinated to identify and charge 6 individuals with illegal possession of herring, and several others for fishing without licenses for a total of 12 charges. Due to increased fishing pressure during the closed spawning season, future operations utilizing NPS Police, USFWS, and Arlington PD are planned in the near future.

  • April 17, 2018