November 21, 2017

Texas Game Warden Field Notes

 

The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.

Special of the Day

Dallas area game wardens received a request from the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington D.C. to look into the possible illegal possession and/or sale of shark fins for shark fin soup at local establishments. Shark fin soup is a traditional ceremonial dish in the Chinese culture. The wardens were asked to visit several restaurants in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that advertised shark fin soup on their menus. Shark fins are considered some of the world’s most expensive seafood and high demand for it supports a world-wide black market. At the first establishment they visited, the wardens did not see shark fin soup on the house menu. But, after inquiring about the dish from the hostess, they were given a special menu that included the shark fin soup. The wardens acted skeptical about the authenticity of the ingredients. The restaurant manager came over and assured them the shark fin soup was the real deal, and to prove it he escorted them to a walk-in freezer. Hidden in the back of the freezer tucked behind several other items were six gallon-sized bags of frozen shark fin soup. The restaurant manager also informed the wardens that the supermarket next door sold shark fins in their fresh seafood department. With that information, the wardens made a visit to the supermarket where they discovered six incomplete shark carcasses for sale in the display case. The wardens asked to speak to the store manager and found him in a walk-in freezer trying to remove a box containing several other shark carcasses. During a search of the freezer, wardens discovered more shark carcasses. In all, 38 incomplete shark carcasses were seized. The cases are pending.

I’m Headed to Jail

A Smith County game warden was on patrol when he drove up on a van parked in the middle of a county road with its emergency flashers on.  When he approached the van, he realized the driver was standing in the door urinating in the middle of the road.  When asked what he was doing, the driver stated he was headed to jail because he was intoxicated. He also admitted to being arrested just five days prior by state park police for DWI.  The driver was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated.  The charges are pending.

A Big Gator Tale

Game wardens received a call from dispatch about a large alligator in Clear Lake Park. The caller stated that he and his son were fishing when a 14-foot alligator jumped on the dock and tried to attack them.  The caller claimed he and his son hit the alligator with fishing poles and barely got away.  He also said that he would be coming back to the park every night until something was done about the alligator. Wardens went to the park later that night and noticed a group of people looking at something in the water. It was a large alligator floating upside down, bloated, and decomposing. The wardens pulled it out of the water and saw that it had a small hole in its head, possibly the result of a bullet wound.  The gator measured 12-feet 7-inches in length. The wardens launched an investigation into the death of the gator and focused their attention on the original call to dispatch. The timing of the gator’s demise seemed to coincide with the timeline of the alleged confrontation with the angler, who had indicated during his call that the incident may have occurred 1 or 2 nights before he called it in.  The next several days were spent trying to track down the caller for an interview. He initially agreed to meet with the wardens, but then backed out and began dodging them.  After several days, the caller was tracked down at his mother’s house where game wardens interviewed the suspect. The individual confessed that he had gone back to his truck after seeing the alligator, got his .22 rifle, and then went back to the water and shot the alligator twice in the head.  He then got worried and called in with the false story two days later. Charges and civil restitution are pending.

The Daily Double

Some dove hunters can’t resist the temptation of double bagging, the illegal practice of taking a daily limit in the morning and then returning to the field in the afternoon for a second limit. Game wardens rarely forget a face, particularly those of hunters they’ve checked only hours earlier. Some examples of greedy hunters whose double bagging attempts were thwarted recently include:

  • On Oct. 2 at about 6 p.m., a Frio County game warden observed several trucks parked near a fence line that bordered a pasture. He made his way toward the pasture, drove in the gate and made contact with the group of hunters. The warden noted that some of the hunters almost had a limit of doves that afternoon. After further investigation, it was determined that several of the same individuals had almost shot a limit of birds that morning as well. Several individuals were filed on for exceeding the daily bag limit and 40 birds were seized. Cases and civil restitution are pending.
  • A week later at about the same time of day, the same warden drove up to a ranch gate, parked his truck and listened for shots for about 5-10 minutes. He heard several shots from a ranch nearby and decided to check those hunters for compliance. After further investigation, it was determined that eight individuals had shot a limit of doves that same morning and had returned to the field for an afternoon hunt. These individuals were filed on for exceeding the daily bag limit and 52 birds were seized. The cases and civil restitution are pending.
  • In Maverick County, game wardens received information from Zavala County about some possible double bagging of dove in Eagle Pass. After locating the hunters and a brief investigation, wardens seized 89 birds over the daily bag limit from six hunters. The cases and civil restitution are pending.

Injured Bobcat Provides Opening for Arrest

On Oct. 3, game wardens responded to a call in reference to an injured bobcat at a residence in Bowie County. As the wardens arrived at the location, one of the wardens received a call from a Bowie County Sheriff Deputy with a warning that the individual who lived at that residence had multiple warrants for his arrest and was also wanted for questioning in reference to a theft of property investigation. The wardens made contact with the individual and took possession of the injured bobcat, and then informed the suspect that he was under arrest. He was taken into custody without incident.

Heat Seeking Road Hunter

A Delta County game warden was patrolling an area for road hunters when he observed a truck traveling very slowly on a county road near agricultural fields.  As the truck approached the warden, it quickly turned around and started driving away. After making contact, the warden observed the operator of the vehicle was in possession of a rifle equipped with a thermal imaging scope.  After a lengthy interview, and presented with tire track evidence of his offenses, the driver admitted to driving down the road with the gun out the window looking into the field for hogs. Cases pending.

Right Suspects, Wrong Vehicle

Game wardens are trained observers and possess an uncanny ability to recollect detail. Those skills helped a Houston County game warden solve a recent road hunting case. While investigating a complaint about some late night illegal deer hunting near Ratcliff, the warden overheard radio traffic about occupants in a Jeep discharging firearms from the road near Austonio. The warden responded and encountered a truck in the area with a couple of guys “just riding” around. They had no weapons in the truck and were sent on their way. The warden and a deputy sheriff were searching the area for evidence of illegal road hunting activity when the warden remembered that one of the guys in the truck, who he had recognized from previous contacts, owned a Jeep. He made a phone call to the guy’s wife who confirmed that he still owned the Jeep and also told him where his buddy in the truck lived. The warden and the deputy arrived at the buddy’s house and located the two guys as well as the Jeep in question. The guys admitted to hunting hogs and shooting at beer cans in the road. Cases are pending.

Another Timely Rescue

During a flash flood event on Sept. 27, Webb County game wardens responded to a water rescue call for an elderly couple off Las Tiendas Road near Laredo. The wardens were able to launch an airboat in the ditch and run seven miles up the creek and across pastures in order to reach the stranded people. By the time the wardens reached the home, the water was waist deep inside and moving swiftly around the home. Three people were evacuated, and four U.S. Border Patrol agents who had attempted to walk to the house were also picked up.

A Big Splash

On Oct. 7, Webb County game wardens responded to a call for assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol and Laredo Police Department on a vehicle splashdown in the Rio Grande River. The Laredo PD had attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a vehicle possibly loaded with narcotics and a short pursuit ensued. While fleeing from police, the driver intentionally drove into the river in an attempt to flee to Mexico. The driver was apprehended and taken into custody. The wardens were able to assist in retrieving the vehicle from the river and subsequently discovered 415 pounds of marijuana located in the back seat and rear compartments.

Can’t Bear to See This

Earlier this month game wardens with the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game requested assistance with an investigation of a subject from the Waco area who may have illegally killed a black bear in New Mexico and now possessed it in Texas. Texas game wardens made contact with the subject at his residence and during questioning, the suspect admitted to illegally killing the black bear in New Mexico without a license or permit and transporting the skull back to Texas. The meat and carcass of the bear were left in the field and the pelt and paws were allowed to rot. Cases are pending in New Mexico and the suspect was issued citations in Texas for illegally importing and possessing a protected state threatened species.

Rapid Recovery

On Oct. 5, a Johnson County game warden was patrolling when a call came over the radio of an inmate escape. He responded to the area and quickly spotted the escapee.  As soon as the convict spotted the game warden truck, he turned and ran into the brush.  The warden advised dispatch of his position and gave chase. After about 10 minutes searching the field, the warden discovered the escaped inmate lying in brush under a tree and was able to take him into custody.

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