Officer N. Basford was patrolling Camp Helen State Park and checking compliance for visitors paying to enter the park. There was only one vehicle in the parking lot that did not display an appropriate pay stub for park entry. Officer Basford saw a subject return to the vehicle and proceed to exit the park. After a stop on the vehicle, a check on the driver revealed that his driver’s license was suspended and that he had received notification of such. He was issued a warning for entering the park without paying and was taken to jail for knowingly driving while license suspended or revoked.
Officers Roberson, Hoomes and Pettey worked a detail on Pensacola Beach checking fishermen. One subject was seen with two redfish and was issued a citation for over the daily bag limit of redfish. Officer Pettey located another individual who was in possession of 18 Spanish mackerel. The subject was issued a citation for over the bag limit of Spanish mackerel.
Officer Pettey followed up on a deer case he made earlier this month. After meeting with the state attorney’s office, warrants were obtained for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and willful waste of wildlife. The case involved an individual who poached a deer then left it on his front porch where it spoiled in the heat for approximately 16 hours.
Officer Manning responded to a call to assist the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. An individual who was arrested for child endangerment also had an alligator in his possession. The individual had constructed a special room in his home for the alligator to live. While interviewing the subject at the jail, he admitted catching the alligator and keeping it as a pet. Officer Manning seized the alligator and charged the subject with three criminal violations.
Officers Roberson and Mullins received a call of an oversized redfish at the Bob Sikes fishing pier. The officers arrived and located a subject who had a redfish which was measured at 37 inches, 10 inches over the maximum legal length for redfish. The subject was issued a citation for possession of oversized redfish. The fish was seized as evidence.
Officers conducted a detail targeting the opening week of the alligator hunting season. On the opening night, Officers Baber and Hayes checked a hunter who was actively hunting. The inspection of his permit revealed that he was hunting during phase one, with a phase three permit. The hunter was cited for attempting to take alligator during the wrong harvest period.
Lieutenant B. Allen, Officers Forehand, Little and Hayes were checking alligator hunters on Lake Seminole. They conducted surveillance on a hunter who was actively hunting and during a resource inspection, they found an alligator that had not been tagged. Inspection of the hunter’s permit showed that he was hunting out of his assigned area. The officers noticed spent .22 caliber casings inside the hunter’s vessel. After an interview, the hunter admitted to killing the alligator with a pistol. The hunter was subsequently charged with taking alligator outside of his permitted area, failure to attach CITES tag to an alligator and taking alligator by an illegal method.
Officer J. Rockwell was on land patrol in Blackwater Wildlife Management Area (WMA) when he saw a Jeep traveling at a high rate of speed. He conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle and discovered that the license plate did not match the vehicle. Additionally, the driver advised Officer Rockwell that he was driving on a suspended driver’s license. The subject was charged with knowingly driving on a suspended license and attaching a tag not assigned.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers Nichols, Wilkenson and Lieutenant Clark teamed up with FWC Bear Management personnel to conduct bear canvassing efforts. The community/neighborhood targeted had a recent human/bear encounter. The effort was centered on making homeowners and the community aware of the law and their responsibilities in securing food attractants (unsecured garbage cans) in prevention of human and bear encounters. The canvas resulted in 157 houses visited with almost 100% direct contact with the homeowners. Two homeowners were issued non-compliance letters for unsecured garbage cans.
Officer Jarvis responded to a bear complaint in Mary Esther. The complaint centered on a bear that knocked over a garbage can. The officer arrived on the scene and could not locate the bear. The garbage can that had been knocked over had household garbage spread out on the lawn of a residence. The homeowner was identified and was issued a non-compliance letter.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer J. Rockwell received a call from FWC Dispatch advising that two girls had not returned from a short tubing trip on Cold Water Creek. Officers Lugg and Land also responded to the call. In a joint effort with Santa Rosa County deputies and Santa Rosa Fire Rescue, they located the girls and returned them to their mother.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officers Troiano and Reith were working a late-night shift during the opening of the alligator season near Lochloosa Lake when they located several individuals hunting. The two officers waited until the subjects returned to the boat ramp. From a concealed location, the officers saw a vessel approaching the ramp. After the subject loaded his vessel, the officers identified themselves. The suspect was hunting out of an assigned area and the officers found an untagged alligator on the vessel. Two citations were issued.
Lieutenant Futch was on land patrol in the early morning hours when he saw an off-road vehicle driving at a high rate of speed on a public roadway. During the subsequent traffic stop, a strong smell of alcohol was observed and the operator displayed several signs of impairment. Following field sobriety tasks, the subject was arrested for operating a motor vehicle while being impaired. At the jail, the subject submitted to a breath test that yielded .200 and .193 BAL.
Lieutenant Futch received information that a homeowner found a dead deer in his back yard. On the scene, it was determined the deer had been shot with a shotgun. The officer back-tracked the deer to the neighbor’s property where a garden was planted. Lieutenant Futch contacted K-9 Officer Wiggins to assist in the investigation. The officers trailed the deer into the garden and found a shotgun wadding. The wadding was between the back porch and the location where it appeared the deer had been shot. After speaking with the suspect, the officers decided that charges will be direct-filed with the state attorney’s office for taking deer out of season.
FWC officers began an investigation after receiving information of an 8-point buck deer being killed in the early morning hours. Officers Allen and Cooper contacted one of the suspects at a nearby residence. While speaking with one of the suspects, the officers saw fresh blood on his vehicle. Additionally, they saw drag marks across the yard leading to a cooler. The officers saw fresh blood on the cooler and asked what was inside. One of the subjects opened the cooler to reveal a freshly butchered deer. Lieutenant Futch then went to another residence to contact the other subject. While knocking on the front door, Lieutenant Futch saw fresh deer hair and blood on the porch. After obtaining consent from the homeowner to inspect the property, he discovered the deer was cleaned in a nearby shed. Lieutenant Futch followed sign from the shed into the nearby woods where he discovered the deer carcass. After interviews with the suspects, they admitted to taking the deer at night and provided the officers with the antlers. Officers will be direct-filing charges for trespassing and for taking deer out of season.
Lieutenant Futch was on patrol in the Jena WMA when he came upon a disabled vehicle and three subjects. While speaking with the subjects, he saw several palmetto berries laying on the ground around the vehicle. The subjects admitted to picking palmetto berries in the WMA. Lieutenant Futch saw footprints leading into the woods from the vehicle and asked the subjects if they hid palmetto berries nearby. One of the subjects indicated they did and went into the bushes. Moments later, the subject returned with a large garbage can with palmetto berries inside. The subjects were issued a notice to appear for removing palmetto berries from a WMA.
Lieutenant Futch and Officer Allen were patrolling the Steinhatchee WMA when they saw a vehicle pull off the roadway and was partially concealed. They contacted the driver and saw several bags of palmetto berries in the back of the vehicle. After speaking with the subject, they discovered there were two more suspects helping him remove the palmetto berries. The subject contacted the others and they returned to the truck minutes later. All three subjects were issued a notice to appear for removing palmetto berries from a WMA.
Officer Wiggins and Investigator Ayers received information of people illegally entering and camping on Suwannee River Water Management District lands in Gilchrist County. The officers arrived on the scene and followed fresh tire sign to a camp located near the Santa Fe River. Following a brief interview, the officers determined the subject was not authorized to enter the area by vehicle although the subject has a valid camping permit. The subject was issued the appropriate citations for the violations.
Officer Wiggins and Investigator Ayers worked several cases over the past few weeks in Dixie and Gilchrist counties for illegal dumping. All the investigations were successful and the officers issued numerous misdemeanor citations for unlawful dumping on private property.
Officer Wilder received information that an individual had killed a seven-point buck in velvet in the early morning hours of that day. Officers Albritton, Butler and Allan met with Officer Wilder in Steinhatchee. The officers began investigating the complaint and found the suspect. Upon inspection, the officers saw fresh deer hair and blood in the suspect’s truck. During questioning, the subject admitted to killing the deer at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The officers retrieved the deer, antlers and firearm used to kill the deer. Officer Wilder will be direct-filing all appropriate charges.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
FWC officers are patrolling area lakes and waterways for boating and resource compliance as well as alligator hunting compliance.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officer Mims attended a “Rad Kids Event” at the University of Florida. Officer Mims displayed a baby alligator and spoke to the children about the responsibilities of an FWC officer.
Officer Eller received numerous complaints from recreational and commercial fishermen about an individual who was stealing blue crab traps and their crabs on the Banana River in Merritt Island. A decoy operation was conducted to catch the suspect. Using several decoy blue crab traps, Officer Eller and Lieutenant Bonds hid deep within the mangroves and filmed the violator stealing the decoy traps and the blue crabs inside those traps. Lieutenant Davis and Officer Humphrey were called to assist with their marked vessel and conducted a vessel stop. The commercial fisherman was arrested and transported to a nearby boat ramp for questioning. Once at the boat ramp, Officer Eller interviewed the fisherman and documented the evidence. The violator admitted to having stolen the traps and cutting one of the buoy lines, and replacing it with his own buoy before putting it back in the river. A resource inspection of the violator’s vessel also revealed stone crabs which were in whole condition, some egg bearing, and numerous other violations. The violator was taken to the Brevard County Jail where he was cited with one felony and 11 misdemeanors.
Officer Hallsten was conducting fisheries inspections at Haulover Canal when he checked one subject with five undersized mangrove snapper. The subject was issued a citation for possession of undersized mangrove snapper.
Officer Hallsten was conducting foot patrol at Haulover Canal when he was informed by a concerned citizen that two subjects had been keeping undersized black drum. He quickly intercepted the suspects and conducted a fisheries inspection. The inspection revealed two undersized black drum and one undersized redfish. The appropriate citations were issued.
Officer Lejarzar was conducting fisheries inspections in Port Canaveral when he saw a vessel that was equipped with fishing gear and appeared to be returning to the boat ramp. The vessel began operating suspiciously once they noticed Officer Lejarzar’s vessel. A fisheries inspection was conducted and Officer Lejarzar discovered 11 undersized mangrove snapper and one undersized sheephead. The fish were seized and Officer Lejarzar issued the appropriate citations.
Officers Edson and Sapp were on late-night vessel patrol targeting alligator hunting violations when they located free-floating buoys baited with beef lung. After watching the area for a while, a vessel approached and checked the buoys. The officers made a vessel stop and issued a criminal citation for attempting to take alligator by illegal method.
Over the past several days, Officer Bertolami has inspected several subjects on boats and from the shoreline. On six separate stops, six adult males were found to be in possession of either over the bag limit of mangrove snapper, undersized mangrove snapper, red drum slot size violations and possession of under the size limit spiny lobster. All were issued the appropriate criminal notices to appear.
Lieutenant Frantz received information about a subject fishing on Boca Grande Fishing Pier who had taken an undersized grouper and placed it in a bucket under a cast net. He located the fisherman and undersized red grouper which was still alive. Lieutenant Frantz measured the grouper and found it to be four inches undersized. The fisherman was issued one citation and the grouper was returned to the water alive.
Officer Balfour was on land patrol when he saw what he thought was a disabled vehicle on the side of the road. He stopped to conduct a welfare check and noticed the individuals were in the wood line. When he asked them what they were doing, he learned they had been picking saw palmetto berries. Officer Balfour also learned that one of the individuals was trying to hide from him because he had an active warrant. Officer Balfour arrested the subject and transported him to the Hernando County Jail.
Officer Winton was on land patrol when he saw a vehicle failing to maintain its lane. During a traffic stop on the vehicle, he noticed that the driver exhibited signs of impairment. Field sobriety tasks were conducted, and it was determined that the subject was driving a motor vehicle while his normal facilities were impaired, as well as driving a motor vehicle without a valid license. The subject was arrested and transported to the Lee County Jail where it was determined that his BAL was .130, well above the legal limit of .08. Officer Thompson also responded and assisted with the investigation.
Officer Winton responded to Blind Pass to investigate information reported that individuals were possibly taking illegal snook. Officer Winton conducted surveillance on the area and located a group of fishermen who had been fishing underneath the bridge. During a resource inspection, two undersized and out-of-season snook were discovered. A resource citation/notice to appear was issued to the individual possessing the snook, and several other resource citations and warnings were issued to other members of the group for failure to have a saltwater fishing license.
Officers Hardgrove and Thompson were patrolling Charlotte Harbor just north of Bokeelia very late at night when they saw a commercial net fishing boat operating near their location. They watched the boat for several minutes as it traveled around a large sandbar which usually holds schools of pompano. The vessel displayed a small spotlight on the water and circled the sandbar, apparently looking for fish, then shut down for a few minutes. The fisherman then shined the light at the officers, started up his boat, and tried to head the other direction. However, the fisherman inadvertently pulled his kill switch on the boat which allowed the officers to quickly close on him and conduct a stop. The officers found a 400-yard-long monofilament gill net on the back of the boat, ready to be deployed. The fisherman was arrested and the boat and net were seized as evidence.
Officer Hardgrove was conducting vessel inspections at a local boat ramp when he stopped a commercial net fishing boat. The fisherman had several species of fish on board and claimed to have caught them in two, unconnected, legal seine nets. However, when Officer Hardgrove began inspecting the nets, he found that these “two legal nets” were four illegal nets that had been joined together. Instead of fishing with two separate 500 square foot nets, the fisherman had used one large 2,200 square foot net. The size of the net dictates that this was a flagrant fisheries violation. The fisherman was arrested and faces severe penalties.
Officer Davidson received a complaint of a disturbance on a vessel in the Cortez area. When Officer Davidson arrived on the scene, it became quickly apparent to him that the operator of the vessel might be BUI. Officer Davidson performed an investigation to determine the level of impairment of the operator, and when his investigation was concluded the operator was placed under arrest for BUI. She was booked into the Manatee County Jail.
Officer Hinds and Lieutenant Hinds IV were on land patrol around the South Skyway Bridge. They watched two men spearfishing around the base of the South Skyway Fishing Pier and then saw the two men loading up their truck to go home. A fisheries inspection revealed that the men had speared one 7-inch gag grouper, several undersized sheepshead and collected stone crab claws out of season. The men were given criminal citations for possession of undersized gag grouper and sheepshead, and a citation for possession of stone crab claws out of season. The men must appear in court for their violations.
Lieutenant Parisoe conducted an Individual Fish Quota (IFQ) off-load inspection of a vessel that had returned from commercial harvest of reef fish species. During the inspection, several undersized fish were located. A total of four undersized hogfish and two undersized red grouper were harvested by the fishermen. Lieutenant Parisoe seized the fish and issued a citation and warning for the violations.
Lieutenant Parisoe responded to a complaint of an individual that had placed bucket traps for gopher tortoises. When he arrived, he spoke with the individual who admitted to placing the traps. The individual also agreed to show Lieutenant Parisoe where the traps were placed. Lieutenant Parisoe educated the individual on the laws pertaining to the gopher tortoise and their burrows. He also issued a warning for attempting to take a gopher tortoise.
Officers Cocke, Hughes and members from Pasco County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Anclote Sandbar to investigate a fight between two subjects. When they arrived, they were directed to an inebriated subject who started the fight. During the investigation, the officers developed enough information to charge the subject with battery. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office removed the inebriated subject from the area.
Investigator Ervin followed up on a complaint of a subject who was seen shooting a five-foot American alligator in Haines City. During an interview, the subject was advised of his Miranda warnings and admitted to killing the alligator. He also stated that he took the alligator home, filleted the tail, buried the carcass and placed the meat into a freezer. The subject provided Investigator Ervin with the illegal alligator meat that was located inside his freezer. The subject was issued a criminal notice to appear for possession of an American alligator, or any part thereof, without a permit.
Officers Carter and Young were patrolling a section of property adjacent to Tenoroc Fish Management Area when they saw several vehicles being operated inside the area. They approached one of the trucks, and found two individuals that did not have permission from the land owner to be on the property. Officer Carter saw the subjects had firearms in the vehicle. A check of the individuals found one had provided a false name and was a convicted felon. The officers arrested both subjects. Both were charged with felony trespass and one was also charged with providing a false name to law enforcement and possession of firearm by a convicted felon.
While on land patrol around the Blackburn Point Bridge, Officer Brown performed a fisheries inspection on a vessel returning from a day of fishing. During his inspection, he found that the captain of the vessel had caught and kept several undersized red grouper. The captain was given a criminal citation for possession of undersized red grouper and must appear in court for his violation.
Officer Hinds and Lieutenant Hinds IV were on land patrol around the Centennial Boat Ramp. While on patrol, they were performing boating safety and fisheries inspections on vessels returning to the ramp. During an inspection on one vessel, the two officers found that the captain had caught and kept one 29-inch amberjack, well under the minimum 34 inches needed for possession. Furthermore, the captain was informed that amberjack was currently closed for harvest. The subject was given one criminal citation for possession of amberjack out of season and one written warning for undersized amberjack. He must appear in court for his violation.
Officer Hertel was on patrol in south Sarasota County when he was approached by a passerby that a subject was operating a vessel in a careless manner in the Venice Inlet. In the area, he saw a subject operating a pontoon boat with no navigation lights. The subject almost struck the rocks in the jetty several times. During a vessel stop, it appeared the subject was impaired. When the subject could not successfully perform the standardized field sobriety tasks and refused to give a breath sample, he was booked into the Sarasota County Jail.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers Price and Winton conducted a speed enforcement detail in the Alico Road and Corkscrew Road panther protection zones. During the detail, numerous warnings and citations were issued for speed-related offenses, and drivers were educated about the panther protection area. The maximum speed recorded was 88 mph in a posted 45 mph zone. Additionally, the officers issued a criminal notice to appear for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Wells and Officers Bergwerff, Hughes, and Alvis conducted a two-day outreach at the 147th Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society at the Tampa Convention Center. The officers conducted tours of the 85-foot offshore patrol vessel Gulf Sentry. Additionally, the officers interacted and educated numerous personnel from universities, other state fish and wildlife agencies, federal partners and personnel from other countries. Some of the topics the officers discussed were the capabilities of FWC’s Offshore Program and FWC’s core missions.
SOUTH REGION A
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officer Toby saw an individual fishing on the Lake Okeechobee Levee at Canal Point and conducted a fisheries inspection. The individual was in possession of two undersized black crappie. The individual had a measuring device, but was not using it and was issued a misdemeanor citation for possession of two undersized black crappie.
Officer Hankinson responded to a report of an individual who appeared to be mentally unstable in the J. W. Corbett WMA. The subject was transported to a local hospital for a mental evaluation and subsequently taken to a mental health facility. Since the subject had an active warrant, he will be booked and transported to the Palm Beach County Jail once he is released from the mental health facility,
Lieutenant Brown was working the statewide alligator hunt when he conducted a resource and permit check on the operator of an airboat participating in the hunt. The airboat had two 8-foot alligators on board. A check of the permit revealed that the permit was for the second phase hunt; however, the alligators were harvested during the first phase. It was also a paid hunt requiring a guide. The permit holder received a notice to appear for harvesting American alligators outside of the permitted time and the guide received a notice to appear for principal in the first degree.
Officer Brodbeck was conducting resource inspections at the Labelle Boat Ramp late at night. He saw a male who was in possession of a cast net and actively fishing with several fishing rods. A female approached the officer and inquired about fishing regulations. Officer Brodbeck also saw a vehicle in the parking lot that had an expired Florida temporary tag. The officer parked his patrol vehicle to observe the subjects and the vehicle. A traffic stop was conducted to address the tag violation. The vehicle fled a short distance before stopping behind a convenience store. The driver of the vehicle, identified later as having several active warrants out of Florida, fled on foot into a heavily wooded area. Officer Brodbeck requested backup and a K-9 unit from the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office. They searched the vehicle and found the driver’s license of the subject who fled. The female who was encountered earlier consented to a search of her purse, which contained methamphetamine and paraphernalia, and she was subsequently arrested by the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office. The K-9 was unable to locate the subject who fled. Officer Brodbeck will follow up with the state attorney’s office regarding further charges.
While conducting land patrol in the John C. and Mariana Jones/Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area (WEA), Officer Morrow located a vehicle partially obstructing the roadway. While exiting her patrol vehicle, she heard rustling noises coming from the saw palmetto thicket nearby. Two subjects were actively engaged in removing saw palmetto berries. Upon questioning, one defendant repeatedly advised that she was simply attempting to gather enough berries to “make a pie.” Upon further inspection of the woods and the vehicle’s interior, Officers Webb and Morrow located approximately 100 pounds of saw palmetto berries in various bags and containers. Both subjects were issued misdemeanor citations for the removal of saw palmetto berries from a WEA. The illegal berries were then seized and returned to the resource.
While conducting saltwater fisheries inspections at the Jensen Beach Causeway, Officer Morrow encountered two subjects who were actively fishing. When he asked what kind of fish were in their cooler, one subject answered “a croaker.” Upon inspecting the fish, a 12” black drum was located. The subject was then educated on how to differentiate between the characteristics of the two fish and issued a warning for possession of the undersized fish, and the illegal fish was returned to the resource.
SOUTH REGION B
Officers Piekenbrock and Rubenstein were on water patrol near Bahia Honda State Park and watched individuals catching what appeared to be undersize lobster. Upon inspection of their catch, one individual claimed to have caught all 13 lobster, and was also in possession of a Bahamian Star fish. She was cited for over the limit of lobster, 10 undersized lobster and the Bahamian starfish.
Officers Rubenstein and Piekenbrock were on water patrol Oceanside of Seven-mile Bridge in Marathon and saw several individuals lobstering out of kayaks on the flats. After approaching the individuals, one of them handed over a bag of undersized lobster and out-of-season stone crab claws. The individual was cited for 2 undersized lobster, and out-of-season stone crab claws
Officer Rubenstein watched a diver harvesting lobster alongside US-1 at a popular spot in Duck Key. While the individual was getting out of the water, Officer Rubenstein approached the individual to conduct an inspection of his catch. He was in possession of 13 spiny lobster, 7 over the limit. There was another individual on shore who had not participated and did not have a bathing suit, dive gear or lobster harvesting tools. The individual stated he had brought her along to catch her limit as well but she didn’t want to get in the water. The individual was cited for over the limit of spiny lobster.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officers Rubenstein, Martino and Wagner, along with members from the Loggerhead Marine Research group in Hobe Sound, assisted with the release of “Burt Reynolds,” the Ridley turtle who was rescued from a net entanglement months prior.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROL
The FWC offshore patrol vessel Interceptor was south of Key West with FWC Officers J. Richards, J. Foell, S. Smith, NOAA Officers M. Robb, and W. Widener near the Eastern Sambos when they saw a commercial lobster trap boat actively pulling traps. Officers Foell and Smith boarded the vessel for a marine fisheries inspection. Once on board, they saw several traps. Six of the traps on board did not have the required trap tags attached. The officers then asked the owner/operator of the boat if he would continue to pull traps while they checked the tags on the traps in the water. After 4 hours of the captain pulling his traps, a total of 29 traps did not have the proper tags attached. Other violations noted were improper permanent markings and improper buoy markings. The traps were seized and the defendant was transported to the Monroe County Detention Center.