Officer Wilkenson received information regarding three subjects possibly placing corn on Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) before the opening of archery season. The subjects were identified and on opening day, Officer Wilkenson located one of the subjects walking out of the woods returning from hunting. The subject admitted that he and a friend had placed corn on the management area prior to the season starting. He was issued a citation for placing grains on the management area and a warning for attempting to hunt over an area where grains were placed. His friend was interviewed later by Officer Wilkenson and Investigator Hughes. He also admitted to placing corn on Eglin WMA. He was also charged with placing grains on a management area.
Officers Pifer and Rockwell were on land patrol conducting resource protection on the Eglin WMA. They observed two parked vehicles with both drivers exiting their vehicles. One of the drivers was in possession of a dog. The area where the hunters were located is designated as stalk hunting only. The hunter explained that he had shot a deer earlier in the day, but lost the blood trail. He asked a friend to bring a dog to try to locate the deer. Officer Pifer determined the area where the hunter shot the deer was closed by Eglin. The officers provided assistance in locating the deer. In the process, the officers observed a baited field next to the tree stand where the hunter shot the deer. A resource citation was issued to the hunter for hunting in a closed area and a warning for hunting over baited area.
Officer White observed a subject fishing from the shoreline in Choctawhatchee Bay. An inspection of a cooler revealed the subject was in possession of undersized gray snapper. The subject was cited for the violation.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Over the past week, Officer Jones answered a total of six nuisance bear complaints in residential neighborhoods. These complaints ranged from Midway in the Navarre/Gulf Breeze area to East Milton. All were directly related to human attractants being left unsecured creating a hazard to people, pets and bears. Officer Jones assisted the residents in the area on living in bear country through educational literature and documentation of noncompliance letters.
Officers Tison, White and Letcher completed investigations on five vessels that had been identified as derelict. All the derelict vessels were partially submerged in various locations in the Choctawhatchee Bay. Two of the owners were located and charged for failing to remove them from state waters. Lieutenant Hollinhead is working with the County Public Works Department on their removal from the Bay.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Ramos was notified in the early morning that three men were stranded on Yellow River WMA. The men were cold and thirsty after spending the night stuck in the woods with very limited cell phone service. Officer Ramos located the men, and with the assistance of Officers Rockwell and Tolbert, got their vehicle running so that the men could return home.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officers Colasanti and Yates were patrolling the area of Mandalay Road on the Lower Ecofina WMA when Officer Colasanti spotted a vehicle with four subjects inside pulling a boat. Upon conducting a consensual resource inspection, Officer Colasanti found the subjects to be in possession of 7 red drum with 3 over the legal bag limit. The owner of the vessel admitted fault to having over the bag limit. The subject was given a notice to appear. Three redfish were seized as evidence.
Officers Dasher and Albritton, while working airboat patrol near Rock Island, approached a subject to complete a resource inspection after observing him fishing for a while. Upon realizing it was law enforcement, the subject scrambled around in the vessel and attempted to toss a redfish overboard. Officers intervened and after a brief interview the subject admitted to being in possession of over the bag limit of red drum. Citations were issued.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Over the weekend, Lieutenant Ferguson worked the annual 25K and 50K Cross-Country Run in San Felasco State Park. Approximately 500 people showed up for the event and 300 participated in the run. All 300 participates finished within the allotted time.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
While on foot patrol at the Grove Park WMA Officer Stanley observed an individual hunting from a tree climber. Officer Stanley walked into the area early one morning and found a male hunting within thirty yards of an active bait site. Officer Stanley asked the hunter to climb down. After a short conversation, the man admitted to placing the bait. Officer Stanley issued the individual a citation for attempting to take wildlife over bait on a WMA.
Officer Canfield conducted a JEA Patrol. Several recreational vessels were stopped with no violations observed. Officer Canfield then conducted a patrol along the shrimp and stone crab separation zones. Approximately 11 miles offshore of Hernando County, he observed several stone crab traps in a closed area and began a brief investigation. The next day, Officer Canfield located the owner and issued him a warning for the traps being in the closed area.
Officers Canfield and Cheshire responded on the 2005 Fincat to assist local officers and the USCG with an overdue vessel out of Homosassa. The officers began a search pattern approximately 9 miles offshore. During the second leg of the search pattern, the officers overheard radio traffic on the radio possibly related to the overdue vessel. The officers proceeded to the location which was 25 miles west of Homosassa. Upon arrival, the officers located the overdue vessel at anchor and a Good Samaritan vessel. The officers learned both occupants were okay and the vessel suffered an engine problem the previous afternoon. It was also learned the occupants of the overdue vessel waited several hours after the break down before anchoring and there was not a functioning VHF radio onboard. The officers on the Fincat provided the occupants with water and remained on scene until Sea Tow arrived to assist.
While on foot patrol on the Eau Gallie Causeway, Officer Balgo observed four individuals fishing from the relief bridge. While walking to the individuals, Officer Balgo announced his presence as an officer. It was at that time Officer Balgo observed one individual walking to his cooler. Officer Balgo again stated his presence and instructed the individual to step away from the cooler. The individual threw one fish from his cooler back into the water before stepping away from the cooler. Upon performing a fisheries inspection of the cooler, Officer Balgo observed one undersized spotted seatrout. The individual was cited accordingly.
Officer Dias was heading home when he observed an individual selling saltwater products in a store parking lot. Officer Dias made contact and conducted a quality control and commercial license inspection. The individual selling the seafood could not produce the proper receipts or records for the product he was selling. A records check indicated the individual was given a warning in May 2017 for the same violation. Officer Dias issued the individual a notice to appear for failure to keep adequate records of saltwater products.
Officer Dias was on patrol in the Church Lake Unit of the Ocala WMA on opening weekend of muzzleloader gun season when he spotted a vehicle parked in an area known for trespassing complaints. Officer Dias ran the tag and discovered the registered owner didn’t have the proper licenses or a quota permit to hunt the area. Officer Dias setup surveillance on the vehicle, and after approximately an hour and 20 minutes, he observed two individuals exit the management area. He observed one individual carrying a scoped high-powered rifle instead of a muzzleloader. Officer Dias approached the subjects. The individual carrying the rifle admitted to hunting illegally. The individual was cited for attempting to take deer with a rifle during muzzleloader season. He also received two written warnings for no quota permit and no muzzleloader permit.
Officer Mendelson obtained game camera pictures of two individuals that ran dogs and hog hunted inside the Tosohatchee WMA during the closed season. Officers Mendelson and Stelzer went to the individual’s residence and located the hog that was removed. After being interviewed, both subjects admitted to coming into the management area by airboat, running dogs during a period closed to hunting, and taking a live hog from the management area. Criminal charges were directly filed with the State Attorney’s Office accordingly.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
Lieutenant Lightsey and Officer Dubose participated in both the Vero Beach and Sebastian Community National Night Out. The officers brought a truck, boat and an alligator for display. The officers spoke to numerous families about FWC’s mission and living with alligators in their community.
Officers McDonough and Demeter participated in the “First Responders Block Party” in Port Orange. They exhibited a truck and patrol boat, and handed out candy to local trick or treaters. The event had a great turnout and was a huge success.
Officer Kobs was dispatched to an address where a man was keeping two small alligators in an aquarium. After speaking with the subject about the alligators, the man agreed to turn over the two small alligators. The man was cited accordingly.
Officer Martinez received a call about a boating accident in the Port of Tampa where a vessel was found run aground on the seawall with no one onboard. Officer Martinez found out who the owner/operator of the vessel was and interviewed the subject. After initially lying and misleading Officer Martinez as to what happened and who was on board, Officer Martinez confronted him with evidence contradicting his story. Due to Officer Martinez’s diligent work, the subject was cited for failing to report a boating accident and warned for numerous navigation rule violations.
Officer Berg was on patrol in the pre-dawn hours. The officer encountered a subject throwing a cast net from a bridge in South Hillsborough County. Officer Berg concealed his truck and watched the subject from a distance. He watched the subject walking fish away from his location and placing them in the tall grass nearby. Officer Berg approached the subject and observed him throw two other fish off the bridge that he had not hidden in the tall grass yet. Officer Berg discovered the fish that the subject hid in the tall grass and identified them as undersized snook. The subject was charged with harvesting undersized snook and over the bag limit snook by illegal method.
Officers Winton, Thompson and Stapleton investigated a hit-and-run boating accident that occurred in Cape Coral. During the investigation, the officers identified the vessel involved in the accident. When they went to interview the owner of the involved vessel, he was uncooperative and denied there being any accident. After their investigation, the owner/operator of the involved vessel was placed under arrest for leaving the scene of an accident and issued a boating citation for failure to maintain a proper lookout.
Officer Dalton was on land patrol at the South Skyway Fishing Pier. While on patrol, he stopped and performed a resource inspection on a man fishing from the pier. During the inspection, Officer Dalton found that the man had caught and kept a 16-inch gag grouper. The subject was cited criminally for possession of undersized gag grouper and will have to appear in court for his violation.
While on land patrol in Pinellas County, Officer Phillippi received a call from Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) requesting help regarding a subject they were arresting and an alligator he was illegally possessing. Officer Phillippi made his way to the deputies in Pasco County and advised them of all the violations they had and took possession of the two-foot alligator. PCSO arrested the subject for their violations and for illegally possessing an alligator. The sheriff’s office was extremely appreciative of Officer Phillippi’s knowledge and help in removing the alligator.
Officer Bibeau received a call from dispatch advising a local produce stand was selling undersized fish. Officer Bibeau met with Lieutenant VanTrees, and together they conducted a retail dealer inspection of the produce stand. While conducting the inspection, the officers located numerous saltwater products for sale including red snapper, red grouper and spiny lobster tails. All the saltwater products met the minimum commercial size limits and the owner had a valid retail license; however, the owner did not have any records or receipts for the products that were for sale. Officer Bibeau wrote the individual a misdemeanor citation for failing to maintain adequate records for the sale of saltwater products.
While on land patrol at the Fort DeSoto boat ramp, Officer Martinez observed a vessel coming in from a day of fishing and initiated a resource inspection. After checking the occupants catch, Officer Martinez asked if there was any other fish onboard and inquired about another cooler he observed on the vessel. One of the subjects stated the cooler just contained his lunch, but after being given consent to search Officer Martinez found numerous fish fillets inside. The subject later admitted the fillets were red grouper and he was cited for reef fish not remaining in whole condition. The fillets were seized and are being sent off for testing to confirm the species of fish, at which time further charges could be forthcoming.
While on land patrol near Clearwater, Officer Bibler received a call for assistance from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) regarding a vessel operator who was possibly impaired. Officer Bibler helped the USCG with their investigation and advised them of all the elements needed for a boating under the influence (BUI) arrest. After the investigation, and based on their probable cause, Officer Bibler arrested the subject for BUI.
FWC officers in Polk and Hardee County received information about two subjects hunting deer from the roadway. When officers arrived at one of the subjects’ houses, both subjects were in the middle of cleaning a male deer. One subject admitted to killing the deer with a rifle during muzzleloader season, while hunting from the roadway. The second subject admitted to killing a deer a week earlier with a rifle during muzzleloader season, while hunting from the roadway. Charges will be directly filed against both subjects for hunting out of season and hunting from a county maintained roadway.
Officers Jones and Sehl assisted personnel from the North Central Region with a search for overdue boaters. The boaters had left out of Homosassa the previous day, and had not returned. The officers searched the Hernando County waters with the hopes of finding the individuals. After several hours, the subjects were found in safe condition by the USCG.
Officer Pulaski was in Jefferson County on Interstate 10 when he observed smoke and debris in the roadway. He stopped to provide assistance and noticed a car that was on fire. Officer Pulaski quickly utilized his fire extinguisher to put out the fire. He then escorted the vehicle occupant a short distance away to ensure their safety. The incident was turned over to the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) to investigate.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Berg and Messman assisted with an interagency career day held at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center. The officers spoke to 50 high school students giving them insight on what officer’s encounter daily. The outreach also covered how each division works together to achieve the common goal of protecting Florida’s natural resources.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Holcomb responded to the Dania Pier due to a wildlife alert complaint on multiple subjects keeping undersize snapper. The complainant gave a good physical description of the subjects, as well as a description of the vehicle they were taking the fish. Officer Holcomb approached two very belligerent and intoxicated suspects fitting the complainant’s description. They went out to the subject’s car where Officer Holcomb found 3 undersize mutton snapper in a cooler. The subjects were blaming each other for catching the undersize fish, so they were both issued criminal citations as codefendants for possession of the undersize fish. The fish were also seized as evidence.
While on patrol in the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park, Officer Holcomb conducted a marine fisheries inspection on a subject who had just pulled into the marina by boat. The subject stated that he had been offshore lobstering and spearing hogfish. Upon a fisheries inspection, the subject was found to be in possession of 6 speared hogfish. A new regulation for hogfish went into effect in August that states you can only possess one hogfish that is 16-inches or greater between May 1st to Oct 31st on the Atlantic side. The old regulation was 5 hogfish per person. The subject stated he knew about the new regulation but did not know that it went into effect. He was still in violation of the old regulation of only 5 hogfish per person. He was issued a criminal citation for over the bag limit of hogfish and the fish were seized as evidence.
While Officer Tarr was patrolling in the Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 3/4 near the Harold Campbell boat ramp, he observed two people fishing in an area closed to fishing. As Officer Tarr approached, he observed that they were fishing right in front of two no fishing signs. After a fisheries inspection, Officer Tarr observed that one of the subjects was in possession of more than one bass that was larger than 16-inches. The subject was aware of the size limit but did not bring a tape measure. The subject was issued a criminal citation for possession of more than one bass 16-inches or greater and the fish were seized as evidence.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Hankinson, Morrow and Webb worked a boating accident along the ICW in North Palm Beach. A vessel ran aground on a local golf course. Charges are pending on the operator of the vessel who fled the scene.
SOUTH REGION B
Officers Knutson and Johnson were on foot patrol at Tigertail Beach. They observed one man fishing with a cast net in an aluminum vessel and another man propelling with a push pole. There was a blue cooler and a white cooler onshore. Both subjects came to shore and dumped fish out of a trash bag from the vessel into the blue cooler on the beach. They were observed for approximately ten more minutes. The officers approached and asked to check the coolers. During inspection, they found one undersized snook, one undersized sheepshead and a total of 58 mullet (8 over the bag limit). There were no fishing poles in their possession at the time. The subject was cited accordingly.
Lieutenant Mahoney and Officer Plussa were advised of a vessel that was aground and taking on water near Wiggins Bay. Lieutenant Mahoney met with the owner and spoke with him about his obligation to remove the vessel. The owner stated he understood and would take care of the matter within a week. Over a month later, Officer Plussa assumed the case. He found the vessel aground and unattended. It had taken on water, was without means of propulsion, absent navigation lights, and delinquent on registration requirements. Officer Plussa attempted to speak with the owner but he did not cooperate. Officer Plussa advised the owner that he had to remove the vessel within 30 days or it would be deemed derelict and he could be physically arrested for the criminal violation and financially liable for costs of the removal of his vessel.
USCG and FWC officials, through a joint detail involving the illegal charter/livery of vessels/PWC around the City of Miami/Miami Beach, were able to obtain the necessary information to terminate the voyage of a charter boat, “No Rules,” with state federal violations and create a Captain of the Port Order restricting the vessel “No Rules” from future usage.
Officers Despian and Moschiano were on state water patrol near Oleta River State Park. They observed a vessel speeding through a posted manatee zone. As they moved closer, they noticed numerous fishing rods displayed at the stern of the vessel. Upon inspection, the captain was found to be in possession of 1 red grouper, 1 mutton snapper, 2 black drum, 2 yellowtail snapper and 3 mangrove snapper. All species were undersized. The captain was cited accordingly.
Officers Alvarez and Rubenstein were assisting Key West Police Department (KWPD) during Fantasy Fest. After receiving information from KWPD on individuals in violation of exhibiting pythons in exchange for gratuities, the officers contacted an individual on Duval Street that was in possession of an Albino Reticulated Python and taking pictures with the public. The individual needed a Reptile of Concern Permit to possess the python and an Exhibition Permit to exhibit and accept gratuities for pictures. The subject didn’t have any permits and did not know the species of the snake. He was cited accordingly and the python was seized.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers Oldsen, Araujo and Yurewitch were conducting panther zone speed enforcement on US-41. After a few stops, the officers encountered a driver and passenger with several open containers of alcohol in the vehicle. Both occupants were showing signs of impairment. The driver was asked to participate in standardized field sobriety tasks to which she consented. The completion of the tasks further strengthened the officer’s belief that the driver was under the influence of alcohol to the extent that her normal faculties were impaired. Officer Oldsen subsequently arrested the driver for DUI.
Officer Yurewitch was on land based water patrol when he observed multiple persons fishing the Marco River under the Jolley Bridge. Officer Yurewitch observed a fish on the ground near two individuals and he proceeded to conduct a fishing license inspection and resource check. The fish was found to be an undersized snook measuring 25.5 inches. During the same stop, Officer Yurewitch found and then arrested an individual that had an active extraditable felony warrant outside of Collier County. During his patrol, Officer Yurewitch also cited and warned other individuals for fishing license violations.
Lieutenant Shea and Officer Plussa responded to Collier-Seminole State Park to assist the park staff with a disruptive and unruly camper who was failing to follow campground rules. The subject’s campsite contained one large RV, three other vehicles, two tents, a large trailer, a golf cart and other recreational items. These items were encroaching on other campsites and there were numerous empty alcohol containers and trash strewn about. When park staff tried to explain the campground regulations to the subject, he became belligerent. Lieutenant Shea issued four warnings for state park rules violations. The following morning, Officer Plussa again responded to the same campground at the request of the park staff, due the subject’s failure to comply and causing a disturbance. Officer Plussa observed the subject pacing and yelling. Officer Thurkettle arrived to assist. As the officers spoke with him, they noticed the trash from the day before and that he was still in violation of numerous campground regulations. Officer Plussa asked him if he recalled the warnings from the day before. The subject provided them to the officer as well as the campground regulations provided by the park staff both days. Based on the subject’s blatant disregard, noncompliance, and escalating disruptive behavior, Officer Plussa trespassed the subject from the park for a period of one year and issued appropriate citations. Officers Thurkettle and Plussa escorted the subject out of the park advising him that if he returned, he would be arrested.
Officer Plussa was conducting land-based water patrol of Naples Bay when he observed a familiar unregistered and unnumbered orange ski boat make its way to dock at Bayview Boat Ramp. Officer Plussa recognized the operator as the owner, and one whom he had issued a previous warning for failing to display numbers. Officer Plussa and Knutson had also encountered the same subject and vessel a second time, issuing the operator a citation for not carrying the bill of sale within 30 days change of ownership. During both previous encounters, Officer Plussa explained the registration and title requirements in detail and directed the operator not to use the vessel on the waters while in violation. Officer Plussa obtained the operator’s identification and asked if he had registered the vessel yet. The subject began making excuses, stating that it was not his fault and that the manufacturer froze the title. Officer Plussa also observed the vessel’s trailer absent a tag. A records check indicated that the vessel had never been titled, and neither the vessel nor trailer had ever been registered. Appropriate citations were issued.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officers Amuso and Plussa responded to a report of a distressed alligator walking down US-41 in Naples. The caller indicated it was trapped by the concrete wall, unable to return to the canal on the other side. The caller was unable to wait for the officers because he was on his way to work. Officer Plussa arrived on scene and observed a white van stopped on the side of the roadway. A male subject was seen obtaining something from the rear cargo area and walking towards the alligator. Upon seeing Officer Plussa, the subject quickly returned to his van and attempted to leave. Officer Plussa stopped and questioned the subject regarding his actions and interest in the alligator. The subject stated he was “interested” in the alligator and was taking pictures; however, he could not explain why he had opened the rear of his van to do so. Officer Plussa educated him on the law. Officer Amuso arrived and assisted Officer Plussa in removing the alligator from the road shoulder and releasing it into the canal.
Lieutenant Mahoney and Officer Plussa responded to a report of a 12 to14-foot python observed at a lake in Naples. Upon arrival, officers determined the species was an alligator. They confirmed with the caller that they were observing the same animal she had, and she agreed. Officers provided her educational resources and material for species identification. The caller’s children became fascinated with their patrol trucks and Officer Plussa used the opportunity as a very positive way to interact with the family and communicate the FWC mission.
Officer Plussa responded to a call of a black bear inside a caller’s home. Upon arrival, Officer Plussa met and spoke with the caller whom was relieved that the bear had already left. She stated that her garage was open and her laundry room door was cracked to release warm air. She stated that when her dog began barking and growling at the laundry room interior door, she opened it and the bear attempted to enter the home. The caller stated she yelled and shut the door on the bear, scaring it out of the house. She provided photos of the incident to the officer. Officer Plussa provided her with education on the matter and referred the incident to the local bear biologist.
Officer Dube was on water patrol near Islamorada when he observed a small sea turtle struggling to swim. Officer Dube rescued the green sea turtle hatchling and brought it to the office in Windley Key. Officer Rafter transported the turtle hatchling to the Marathon Turtle Hospital for treatment.