Game Warden Field Notes
The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Wardens Catch Up to East Texas Poaching Ring
Game wardens in Smith and Wood counties recently put a halt to a massive poaching network involving 12 individuals responsible for the illegal killing of at least 28 white-tailed deer and 50 feral hogs. The investigation began in February with information about a deer that had been shot off a county road at night. Game wardens conducted several interviews and soon learned this was not an isolated incident. In fact, it was just the tip of the iceberg. By summer, investigators had documented evidence that a dozen subjects collectively committed more than 600 violations during the last two years. They ranged in severity from Class C misdemeanors to State Jail felonies. All the deer and hogs had been killed on private property at night; shot from public roadways with the aid of spotlights. The dead animals were left to rot where they fell. Cases are pending.
Taking Trouble off the Road
On Aug. 17, a couple of Van Zandt County game wardens encountered an ATV operating on a public road near Lake Tawakoni. As wardens made contact with the four-wheeler operator, they observed a Land Rover coming to a stop close behind and the driver exit the vehicle. While one warden made contact with the operator of the four-wheeler, the other made contact with the driver of the Land Rover. As the warden approached the Land Rover, he noticed the driver make an effort to re-enter the vehicle and ordered him to step away. The subject ignored the commands and tried to reach inside the door, at which time the warden restrained him with handcuffs. Wardens soon found a loaded pistol in a magnetic holster inside the driver’s door frame, where the man was reaching. They also discovered an M4 rifle and various narcotics. The investigation showed that the ATV, the pistol, and the rifle was were stolen. The driver of the Land Rover was also a convicted felon. Pending charges include a pair of third-degree felonies and three state jail felonies.
Game Wardens Cracking Down on Boat Thefts
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Marine Theft Investigation Unit recently conducted a saturation patrol of Galveston and Harris counties. That resulted in the seizure of seven vessels and issuance of numerous citations. The patrol focused on licensed marine dealer inspections, dock checks, and boat ramp patrols. The special unit of Texas game wardens began ramping up efforts in January 2018 and since then has seized 104 vessels with a combined value of over $555,000. The unit’s investigations have resulted in 149 boat tax evasion cases, recovering more than $128,000 in revenue, and issuance of over 200 citations. While conducting the saturation patrol, the game wardens received overwhelming support from the general public for their efforts. With these results, it is clear that the Marine Theft Investigation Unit is a useful tool for assuring dealer compliance. It prevents boat theft, tax and title fraud, and recovery of stolen vessels.
End of a Long Tail
Texans don’t abide cheaters, particularly in their fishing tournaments. An individual was recently sentenced to jail time, restitution of nearly $3,000, suspension of his fishing license for a year and banishment from fishing in tournaments after he was caught cheating. The court decision was the culmination of a game warden investigation into bass fishing tournament fraud on Decker Lake in Travis and Bastrop counties. The individual used a unique sleight of hand. It was during a catch-and-release kayak fishing event where the tournament uses photos. They are taken by contestants out on the water of their catches. The fish is placed on a measuring board and the angler having the most inches of bass in the aggregate is declared the winner. Upon inspection of the violator’s vessel, a cut tail of a bass was found in the paddle well of the kayak. The violator initially stated he found the cut tail in the reeds and was taking it to shore to turn it in. Later, the violator confirmed using the tail to place over another bass, using his hand to cover the questionable area, to make the fish look longer, on multiple occasions.
The Pool is Closed
An Abilene game warden received information about a family in Hamlin possessing an alligator. The concerned citizen stated that he saw photos posted on Snapchat. The warden drove to the suspect’s house. He asked if he could see the alligators, and was led to the back yard where he discovered five baby alligators in a small swimming pool. The warden seized the alligators and took them to the Abilene Zoo for holding until arrangements could be made. The case is pending further investigation.
A Repeat Offender
While checking bank fishermen along the East Fork of the Trinity River near Forney, a game warden approached a group of three individuals he observed fishing. An inspection of their catch revealed undersized catfish. They were as small as six inches in length and an undersized white bass, as well as game fish, being used for bait. During an explanation of the regulations, one of the men became increasingly belligerent toward the warden. When told that he was going to receive a citation he grew even more agitated and refused to give his name. The game warden then attempted to place the subject under arrest for failure to ID, but the man pulled away and was taken to the ground. The man was charged with fishing without a license, failure to ID, and resisting arrest. At the jail, three warrants out of Dallas County were discovered, two of which were for resisting arrest.
No Fame, No Shame
Just before midnight back in July, a Van Zandt County game warden approached three individuals as they were wrapping up their night of fishing on the Sabine River. The warden asked if they had any luck and after a long pause and some blank stares one of the individuals spoke up and said they did well. The warden had them open their ice chest, which contained 27 striped and hybrid bass, 12 over their limit. All three individuals were cited for over their daily bag limits. On a side note, all three individuals claimed to be huge fans of the Texas game warden TV show “Lone Star Law.” However, when asked if they wanted this incident to be filmed, they declined.
A Hill County game warden acting on a tip paid a visit to a residence and located two white-tailed deer fawns being held in an enclosure on the property. It was later determined that the fawns had been found in Arkansas and transported to Texas. The fawns were seized and turned over for disease testing. Charges are pending for Interstate Transport of White-Tailed Deer to Texas without Authorization and Possession Live Game Animal.