May 4 – June 14, 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.
Persistent Feeding of Wildlife Brings Charges – During the months of March and April, Conservation Police Officers in Virginia Beach addressed a complaint of a person feeding squirrels in a residential area. The feeding caused damage to an adjoining neighbor’s property and created a public health concern. CPOs spoke to the person involved, explained why the feeding needed to stop, and issued a written warning for the violation. Upon learning of continued violations and on the advice of the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, officers placed numerous criminal charges against the offending subject. The Virginia Department of Wildlife resources would like to remind you that we do not recommend that you feed wildlife. See http://dgifwebtest.gooutdoorsvirginia.com/blog/resist-the-temptation-to-feed-wild-animals/ for more information.
Unsafe PWC Operation Leads to BUI Arrest – On May 28, 2022, Conservation Police Officers Krista Adams and Amanda Janicki were on patrol near Chickahominy Riverfront Park in James City County. At approximately 9:15 PM, the officers observed a personal watercraft (PWC) being operated on the waterway near the park. Sunset was approximately an hour earlier and it is illegal to operate a PWC after sunset. The CPOs made contact with the PWC operator and explained the violation and safety issues with nighttime operation of a PWC. During the contact, CPO Adams noticed the operator appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. Adams asked the operator to perform a series of field sobriety tests at which he performed poorly. CPO Adams placed the operator under arrest for boating while intoxicated and operating a PWC after sunset and transported him to the local regional jail. Upon final testing at the jail, the operator’s blood alcohol content was found to be .16 grams per 210 liters of breath. The operator was held until he sobered up at the jail and issued a bond to appear in court for the charges.
Improper Display of Navigation Lights Leads to BUI Arrest – On May 29, 2022, Conservation Police Sgt. Bumgarner and CPO Dobyns were on boat patrol in Mathews County in the area of Queens Creek. At approximately 9:10 pm, the officers observed a boat underway not displaying proper navigation lights. After stopping the vessel, the officers found that the operator exhibited signs of alcohol impairment. CPO Dobyns administered a series of field sobriety tests to the operator. The operator performed poorly and was then offered a preliminary breath test. A reading of .139 BAC was observed. CPO Dobyns then placed the operator under arrest for boating under the influence and failing to display proper navigation lights. The subject was transported to the Mathews County Sheriff’s Office where a final reading of .11 g/210L of breath was observed. The subject was held at the Middle Peninsula Regional jail until sober and released on bond.
Kids Fishing Day Returns – On June 4, 2022, Conservation Police Officers Joel Early, Joe Rollings, and Cody Barnes participated in the annual Kids Fishing Extravaganza in Southampton County. The event is coordinated by local CPOs with assistance from the Southampton Extension Office, the Robert A. Hill FOP Lodge #56, the Virginia Department of Corrections and many local donors. Participants were treated with a Bojangles lunch and each child received a free fishing rod, bait and door prizes. The prizes included a lifetime freshwater fishing license, tackle boxes, assortments of lures, outdoor water games, hats and PFDs. The program was highly welcomed back to the community after two years of cancellations due to Covid restrictions.
Norfolk Harborfest – The 46th Annual Norfolk Harborfest event was held this past weekend from June 10-12 on the Elizabeth River. Virginia Conservation Police Officers were on scene with US Coast Guard and other police and fire units from around the Hampton Roads area to provide security for the event and ensure safety for the boating public. Officers assisted with enforcing a security zone and waterway closure for a fireworks show, drone flying display and other on-water events. CPOs also investigated a reckless boating incident after a vessel sank at night during a collision with a piling and spoke to numerous boaters about safe boating operation and proper boat safety equipment.
Multi-Agency Youth Outreach Event – On May 17, 2022, K9 CPO Tyler Blanks, CPO Gracie Talbert and CPO Gavin Fariss participated in an event at Bear Creek Lake State Park. These officers worked in conjunction with DCR state park staff, DWR biologists, and the Virginia Department of Forestry, to create various stations throughout the park where students from Cumberland County Elementary school could learn about conservation. Our officers explained the responsibilities of a Wildlife law enforcement officer and discussed the role they play in protecting Virginia’s natural resources. Officers also answered questions about rules, regulations, and wildlife. Officer Blanks and K9 Bruno took the show when they were front and center. The students loved the stories about Bruno and his accomplishments in finding evidence and people in the woods.
Kids Fishing Tournament – On May 14, 2022, a local church organized a kids’ fishing tournament, which took place on DWR’s Lake Nelson in Nelson County. Jimmy Stinson, Natural Resources Specialist III, with DWR, made a special effort to mow the fishing area for the kids prior to the event. Officer Cory Harbour, Master K9 Officer Richard Howald, and Officer Shawn Yates assisted by bringing fishing rods and interacting with the kids and their families. The children ranged from 3-12 years old. This was a great opportunity to let children have a fun and pleasant first experience with Conservation Police Officers while having some friendly competition.
Illegal Bear Kill – On May 26, 2022, CPO Shane Wilson received a call regarding an illegally killed bear in Bedford County. Despite being off duty when the call originated, CPO Wilson promptly responded to the scene where he located a deceased bear cub and a spent 9mm shell casing. CPO Wilson collected the necessary evidence and interviewed the suspect who admitted to shooting the bear cub with a 9mm handgun from inside the doorway of his residence. The appropriate charges are pending.
Bear Killed Illegally – On May 28, 2022, CPO Brett Clawson initiated an investigation into the illegal killing of a bear in Bedford County. CPO Clawson’s investigation revealed a bear weighing approximately 250-300 pounds was killed by a landowner and buried on his property. The landowner had stored a dirty grill inside his garage following a family barbecue which attracted the bear. The landowner took matters into his own hands and never contacted DWR for assistance before or after the incident. The appropriate action was taken.
Reckless Operation of a PWC – On May 30, 2022, CPOs Brett Clawson and Tyler Routon responded via boat to a complaint of a PWC being operated recklessly on Smith Mountain Lake in Bedford County. The officers located the offender, a juvenile, who they observed operating the PWC at excessive speed within 50 feet of a dock. The juvenile operator was not wearing a life jacket and had not taken a boat education course. A responsible party was contacted and the appropriate action was taken.
Deer Killed Illegally – On June 9, 2022, CPO Keith Wilson received a call about a deer being shot in a neighborhood in Amherst County. He responded and located the suspect field dressing the deer in his backyard. Officer Wilson interviewed the man who claimed he thought he could kill wildlife at any time on his own property. Further questioning revealed the suspect had shot the deer twice with a .223 caliber rifle. Officer Wilson explained that there was no landowner exemption for harvesting deer outside of damage permits and it was not legal to hunt deer with a rifle caliber below .23. He also spoke with neighbors who heard the shots and witnessed the suspect retrieving the deer. Multiple charges were placed.
CPO on Vacation Rescues Swimmer Caught in RIP Current – On Friday June 10, 2022, Officer Gardner was on leave with his family at Topsail Island, North Carolina. While sitting on the beach, he heard several individuals yelling for help from the water. Officer Gardner observed several individuals yelling and pointing at a teenage subject in the water. The subject was approximately 30 yards offshore, appeared to be caught in a rip current, and was struggling to stay afloat. Utilizing tactics learned in DWR Boat Training and Water Survival Training, Officer Gardner was able to swim to and contact the subject. After a brief moment of calming the subject down, Officer Gardner was able to swim the subject parallel with the current until they were able to break through and return to shore. After returning the subject to safety, Officer Gardner turned to observe another subject (the teenager’s mother) had attempted to swim out to help her son and was now caught in the rip current herself. Officer Gardner swam out to the female subject who appeared to be in shock. She was afloat but unresponsive. Officer Gardner was able to take hold of the subject multiple times but was unable to maintain contact, being forced to break free from the subject. At this time, Officer Gardner scanned the shore line and noticed that rescue units had arrived on scene and were assessing the situation. Officer Gardner was able to make his and the subject’s location known to the rescue units. Rescue swimmers arrived on scene moments later and were able to get the subject onto a rescue buoy and return her to shore. North Topsail Beach Rescue Units took over the scene and provided medical aid to the subjects.
CPOs Act on a Tip – On May 6, 2022, acting on a tip of possible illegal turkey hunting in Fairfax County, Sgt. Rich Goszka and Officer Katiana Quarles conducted a patrol of the area. The officers located two active feeders and observed two turkey decoys and a live turkey feeding. The officers made contact with and interviewed a suspect in the area who admitted to criminal violations. The officers developed and interviewed an additional suspect who also made criminal admissions. The appropriate charges will be placed.
Hunting from the Roadway Incident – On Dec. 7, 2021, Louisa County received a call for service regarding hunting from the roadway on East Jack Jouette Rd. The complainant witnessed a subject in a loud truck stop and shoot at deer from the road. The complaint believed the shot may have hit the trees where he was sitting. The vehicle fled the area. On Dec. 8, 2021 DWR received information about f the incident, and Officer Sumpter responded to the scene to meet with the complainant. Officer Newton, Officer Ostlund, and K9 Reese responded to assist with an article search which yielded evidence of the crime. Officer Sumpter, following investigative leads, conducted multiple interviews over the following months and obtained full confessions regarding the incident. The shotgun used was surrendered and placed in evidence. All three subjects were juveniles and the appropriate charges were placed through Louisa County Juvenile Court.
Effective Communication and Collaboration Bring Month-long Case to Fruitful Fruition – On May 2, 2022, Officer Hawkins received a call about net issues in Aquia Creek. Virginia Marine Police advised they could not respond, so Officers Hawkins and Newton responded to check the nets. After locating the nets, the permit holder was identified. Through investigation, Officer Hawkins identified the permit holder as a felon. Officer Hawkins reviewed hunting information and uncovered possible felony hunting violations. Officer Hawkins obtained a search warrant for the subject’s house and executed it on May 26, 2022. Through interviews and a diligent search, District 45 Conservation Police Officers located substantial amounts of shotgun ammunition, rifle ammunition, and one pistol. Multiple cell phones and video equipment were also seized and will be processed. With effective communication and collaboration among District 45 Conservation Police Officers, this month-long case came to fruitful fruition, and the subject was charged and awaiting their day in court.
Stratford County Dare Day – On May 23, 2022, CPO Hawkins, K9 DiLuigi, and his K-9 partner attended the Stafford County DARE day at Pratt Park in Stafford. CPO Hawkins brought District 46’s new boat to show off as well as the ambassador snakes from Headquarters. The event was well attended and many young adults, and some older chaperones, found out that not all wildlife bites and that CPOs get some pretty cool boats. Two cards were handed out for people interested in joining DWR’s workforce. Officer Hawkins looks forward to attending the event again next year.
Forestry Semicentennial Woodsmen’s Competition – The Forestry Semicentennial Woodsmen’s Competition, hosted by Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, requested CPO K9 Handler Ostlund and K9 Reese, along with K9 Officer Bird and K9 Boone from the West Virginia Department of Forestry provide presentations during the event. CPO Ostlund spoke with attendees about the VA Conservation Police career, and then K9 Reese performed an article search demonstration in a simulated woodland crime scene. Officer Bird and K9 Boone performed a tracking demonstration. The demonstration was very well attended and particularly enjoyed by the children. One attendee wrote the following to Mr. Scott Reigel, the event coordinator: “Congratulations on a job well done, Scott! I enjoyed the day so very much. It reminded me of everything that is still right in life. Youth competing, sportsmanship, encouraging audience, children rolling down the hillside and those awesome dogs and their handlers. We’ll be there for the next one!”
CPOs Assist in Recovery of Missing Person – On June 11, 2022, a call for service was established for a possible body in the James River close to the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge. Sergeant Sonny Nipper and CPO Keith Wilson took the call and immediately responded to Hunting Creek boat landing located approximately 1 mile from the object observed in the water. Contact was made with CPO Richard Howald who remained on shore to assist with local law enforcement. Sergeant Nipper and CPO Wilson located a body on the shoreline, secured the scene and began making contact with local law enforcement. CPO Howald took control of the situation by establishing an extraction point on land thus saving time and effort that would have resulted from transporting the victim by water. After developing a safe route to the extraction point, CPO Howald directed local law enforcement agencies to the scene. Once rescue divers arrived from Big Island and Bedford County, Sergeant Nipper and CPO Wilson provided security to allow the rescue divers to access the situation. CPO Wilson transported the investigators from both Amherst and Bedford County to the victim by boat as they began their investigation. Once the Medical Examiners arrived, CPO Wilson provided them transportation to the victim to document and photograph the scene. The Medical Examiners released the scene and extraction of the victim began. CPO’s Wilson and Howald provided security as the process of removing the victim took place due to multiple onlookers at the scene. Once the victim was secure and transported all units cleared the scene.