The Central Region Office received an anonymous complaint regarding an untagged deer being kept in a cooler in Navesink, Monmouth County. The complainant identified the owner of the deer. CO Martiak knew of two coolers, one at the firehouse and one at a butcher. Officer Martiak went to the firehouse and contacted the Fire Chief who arrived to let him into the cooler. Inside were two deer. One deer was tagged in New York by the father of the named suspect, the other was untagged. CO Martiak contacted the father who denied ownership of the untagged deer. CO Martiak then contacted the son who admitted to killing the deer in NJ, but stated that he didn’t have time to check it in. A summons was issued for failing to tag a deer.
CO Szalaj issued a summons to a waterfowl hunter on the Assiscunk Creek, Burlington County for shooting 32 minutes after legal hours.
During the afternoon of opening day of buck week, CO Mascio and Lt. Lacroix observed two hunters in a field on the north side of the Assunpink WMA. As the officers approached the hunters, CO Mascio observed one of them dragging a dead doe. Another dead doe was lying nearby. Upon questioning, it was determined that the man had shot two does earlier that day, but had only found one. He went back out and shot another doe, then found the one he killed earlier. He didn’t have a tag for the freshly killed deer. The juvenile he was with admitted that he had just shot a doe and that it was hanging back at his barn adjacent to the WMA. He admitted that the deer was also untagged. When Lt. Lacroix checked the tree stand where the juvenile had been hunting, it was also determined that the juvenile had shot within 450 feet of a residence. The adult was issued a summons for untagged deer and over the limit. Potential charges for the juvenile are pending.
Lt. Lacroix received a call at 0020 hours on the Tuesday of the Six-Day Firearm Season regarding two individuals who had just shot a deer illegally in Robbinsville, Mercer County. She responded to the Robbinsville PD where she met with both suspects. The driver admitted to shooting the eight point buck with his crossbow. He claimed that he had wounded the deer earlier during the day with his bow on the Assunpink WMA and that he had lost the blood trail. He came back out that night and found the deer (now four miles away and on the other side of the New Jersey Turnpike) and decided to finish it off. The suspects were unaware however, that there had been a witness who observed them spotlighting the deer and shooting it with a firearm and wounding it. They then left the area and returned about 25 minutes later. They chased the deer around the field and then killed it with the bow. During the investigation, it was determined that the main suspect did not possess a bow license and had never taken a bow education course. It was also found that he had shot a doe during the early permit shotgun days and had not checked the deer in. A total of thirteen summonses were issued to the two individuals for the night deer violations as well as the earlier violations.
On the opening day of Six-Day Firearm Season, CO Martiak was patrolling the Monroe Township area when he observed a hunter walking into the woods, carrying a gun. CO Martiak decided to check the hunter later. Later that evening, CO Martiak checked the area again. He observed a juvenile hunter and the individual from earlier coming out of the woods. As he approached them, he observed the adult stop and lean down into the edge of the woods. The man then stood up and walked towards the officer. CO Martiak observed that the man wasn’t carrying a firearm. Upon questioning, the man stated that he was not hunting but that he was escorting the juvenile hunter. Officer Martiak informed the man that he had been seen with the gun earlier and that he knew the man had hidden the gun. After further questioning, the man admitted to hiding the gun and showed the officer where he had put it. It was determined that the man did not have a NJ Firearm Hunting license. His gun was also not plugged. He was charged with both violations, as well as interference.
Lt. Lacroix appeared in Upper Freehold Twp. Municipal Court for the night deer and damage to property case from September 2011. Both individuals pled guilty to damage to property and several other night deer violations. The farmer was awarded $2000 restitution for damages that the hunters caused to his crops. The hunters were also fined $1700 in penalties for the remaining fish and wildlife violations. Both hunters were revoked for five years under the damage to property statute. The original highlight is re-printed here for reference: Lt. Lacroix responded to a Cookstown residence after receiving information that a vehicle owned by the resident, and another vehicle, had been seen driving through a standing soybean field in Upper Freehold Twp. that morning. The farmer observed fresh deer blood and hair near the tire tracks and reported that they had heard a commotion outside around 0430 hours that morning. When Lt. Lacroix arrived at the residence, she observed the bloated white underbelly of a deer laying inside an open shed on the property as well as one of the suspect vehicles. During questioning, the two men with the deer admitted to shooting the 9 point buck with a shotgun early that morning at the farm in Upper Freehold. A cooler of untagged deer meat was also found on the property. One of the suspects is currently revoked for nighttime hunting. A total of twenty summonses were issued to the two men. The NJ State Police also arrested both men for criminal trespass and damage to property. Lt. O’Rourke and CO Szulecki assisted.
CO Szalaj and Lt. Lacroix were on patrol in Burlington County on the Saturday of the Six Day Firearm Season when they received a complaint from another hunter regarding a well known group of hunters who were riding around with uncased shotguns. The hunters were headed towards the Sportsman Center check station. The officers found them there and inspected the vehicle. One uncased firearm was found in the truck. CO Szalaj issued the hunter a summons for the violation.
CO Szulecki received a phone call from a complainant two years ago regarding a hunter who always parked in the same location and hunted Monmouth County Park property without wearing orange. CO Szulecki worked the area for two consecutive years and could not locate the vehicle or individual in question. Recently, while on patrol, CO Szulecki identified the vehicle parked on Monmouth County Park property. He then observed a dark green object in the hedgerow in the woods. He took up a position just down the way and observed a hunter wearing no orange, accompanied by a youth hunter who had an orange hat that was covered up with a camouflage hood. CO Szulecki conducted a field inspection of the two hunters and the appropriate summons was issued.
CO McManus dealt with three incidents of hunters discharging their firearm from or across a publicly traveled road in Colliers Mills WMA. In one of the cases, CO McManus observed a hunter discharge his firearm across the roadway approximately twenty yards in front of his patrol vehicle. CO McManus conducted a field inspection of the hunter who seemed frustrated that he had not yet shot a bird. CO McManus checked his watch and advised the sportsman that he was only seventeen minutes into legal hunting time. The appropriate summons was issued.
CO McManus was patrolling Colliers Mills WMA during the Six-Day Firearm Season and noticed an upland game hunter in the field. CO McManus conducted a field inspection of the hunter and asked the hunter what he was doing. The hunter replied he was pheasant hunting. CO McManus advised the hunter that pheasant season was closed during Six-Day Firearm Season. The hunter then advised CO McManus that Tuesdays are stocking days for pheasants. CO McManus agreed that Tuesdays are the usual anticipated stocking days, however, CO McManus politely advised the hunter that pheasant season was closed during the Six-Day Firearm Season and that it was Friday. The appropriate summons was issued.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, CO Mutone was dispatched to Stafford Forge WMA for a hunting incident that involved injury. Unfortunately, CO Mutone was notified several hours after the incident occurred. CO Mutone gathered all the information she could about the incident and then interviewed the victim at the scene. The victim provided CO Mutone with a physical description of the alleged shooter, as well as the events as they unfolded leading up to the injury. The following Saturday, CO Mutone was on the WMA looking for the alleged shooter, when she received a call from the victim and some of her local contacts advising her that the alleged shooter had returned and was currently hunting. CO Mutone was able to make contact with the alleged shooter and also found a witness to the incident. The investigation is still pending at this time.
CO Mutone and Lt. O’Rourke were on patrol during the Six-Day Firearm Season when CO Mutone noticed a vehicle parked by an unauthorized entry sign on the Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge. CO Mutone observed two gun cases in the vehicle. Both officers conducted a foot patrol of the area. While on foot patrol CO Mutone flushed a flock of mallard ducks. Soon after, a gunshot was heard. CO Mutone continued her search for the hunters and located an empty steel shot ammunition box lying on top of the sedge grass. Moments later, CO Mutone made contact with two waterfowl hunters. She conducted an inspection of the hunters and found one hunter to have an unplugged firearm, as well as unsigned State Stamp and Federal Stamp and HIP Certification. CO Mutone questioned the hunter that had steel shot ammunition that matched the box she found lying in the sedge grass and asked why he littered. The hunter admitted to throwing the empty box and replied that his reason for doing so was "stupidity". The appropriate summonses were issued.
Conservation Officer Fox and Lt. Ely responded to a call from Cape May County Refuge Officer Tricoulous. The Refuge Officer and his partner were watching an occupied duck blind from the roadway in their patrol vehicle, when a hunter shot at a passing flock of ducks and struck their patrol vehicle with two pellets. Interestingly, Lt. Ely had been there the previous season and spoken to the hunters about their responsibility not to shoot toward the road or an adjacent boat storage yard. He was assured that the hunters would never do that. Officer Fox issued the appropriate summonses.
While patrolling Six-day firearm deer season with Capt. Leonard, Conservation Officer Vazquez stopped a group of hunters. While Capt. Leonard spoke to the group, CO Vazquez looked in the back of the truck and spotted a tagged spike buck. The deer was tagged in an unrestricted zone, but because they were currently in an antler point restricted zone, CO Vazquez questioned the hunter. Initially, he said that he had shot it elsewhere and simply transported here for the next drive. Officer Vazquez knew better and in a short time, convinced the hunter to tell the truth. The deer was seized and donated to local homeless shelter. The appropriate summonses were issued.
Using information gathered during past investigations, Conservation Officer Vazquez entered the woods to look for deer hunters who were believed to be hunting without licenses. As he walked down the described set of power lines, he found the first hunter in a treestand without wearing any orange. He then continued down the power line, and eventually inspected four hunters, three of which were not wearing orange and did not have licenses. The family consisted of the grandfather, father and his two sons. One was a juvenile, but the adults were charged appropriately.
Conservation Officer Fox made a case that will involve the use of DNA testing in East Vineland, Cumberland County. An unidentified hunter was witnessed by another hunter field dressing a spike buck in an antler point restricted zone. The investigation led CO Fox to a local gun club in Atlantic County where a spike buck was checked in on the same day. When questioned, the hunter said he shot the deer in another, unrestricted zone. The hunter accompanied CO Fox and Lt. Ely to the place where he said he shot the spike. Despite efforts to locate the gut pile or any physical evidence that the spike had been shot there, nothing was found. The area that the hunter said that he had shot the deer in seemed random and the hunter’s story was vague. Officer Fox retrieved samples from the gut pile in the restricted zone as well as a sample from the spike at the gun club and they will be tested for a match. The gut pile in question was found 30 yards from the suspect’s treestand and a 3 ½ inch 12 gauge shell was found underneath; the same size and gauge that the suspect was shooting. If the DNA samples match, the suspect will be charged with tagging and harvest violations.
Conservation Officer Vazquez just disposed of a deer case from archery season in which the hunter harvested a buck without first harvesting an antlerless deer in Hamilton Township, Atlantic County. The hunter checked in both a doe and a buck in the same day. He claimed that he had shot the doe the night before but when he found it the next day, it had spoiled so he left it in the woods but went to the check station and reported it. The check station issued him a supplemental tag anyway and he then checked the 8 pt. buck that evening. Because he had not tagged the doe nor transported it to the check station, he was charged with illegally harvesting a buck in addition to the tagging violations associated with the doe. CO Vazquez did not believe that a doe had been taken at all. The gun club and its property are in a closed zone so it is believed that the buck was harvested there and merely tagged in an open zone. After discussion with the suspect’s attorney, who is also a club member, the hunter pled guilty to the charges.
Conservation Officer Vazquez had information that waterfowl hunters may be trespassing on Willow Grove Lake, Salem County. He setup surveillance on the lake one evening and observed two waterfowl hunters. After their last shots at waterfowl (27 minutes past legal hunting hours), CO Vazquez approached them. Upon inspection, he discovered that along with the trespassing violations, one of the hunters was unlicensed, both had hunted well past legal hours and one had fired towards a house. The appropriate summonses were issued.
Conservation Officer Kille responded to a complaint of duck hunters trespassing on private property in Oldmans Township, Salem County. Upon arrival CO Kille observed three hunters in a small boat, the operator of which was navigating through a small tributary of Oldmans Creek with a shotgun slung over his shoulder. CO Kille sat and observed the hunters believing that they were attempting to jump shoot waterfowl. The opportunity never presented itself and the CO eventually inspected the hunters. Upon inspection the CO discovered that the operator of the vessel did in fact have a loaded shotgun while traversing the waterway, but insisted he wouldn’t have shot. Multiple summonses were issued including not having a federal waterfowl stamp, no boat operator’s license, no boat registration, and no PFDs.
Conservation Officer Kille received information from a concerned hunter in Logan Township, Gloucester County of a man trespassing on private property. The hunter explained that the suspect had observed a possible record book deer on this property and was going through great lengths to harvest it. The suspect was utilizing a canoe to travel ½ mile down the Delaware River to access the posted property so as not to be caught trespassing. CO Kille discovered where the suspect had set up a ground blind and was periodically checking the seat. Shortly after receiving the information and discovering the ground blind, the suspect ironically called the CO. The suspect asked CO Kille to assist him in obtaining permission to hunt the property from the owner of the land that he had already been trespassing upon. The CO informed the man that he couldn’t be of any assistance and provided a friendly reminder that he was not to hunt there without first obtaining permission. Four days after the conversation CO’s Kille and James apprehended the man hunting on that property and issued the man summonses for defiant trespass and trespass for the purpose of hunting. The man’s gun was seized as evidence.
Conservation Officer Kille investigated a couple of trappers that had set their muskrat traps in Mantua Creek in Paulsboro, Gloucester County. The CO obtained information from a confidential informant that the trappers were in possession of stolen traps. The CO discovered their traps and determined that they were not being tended every 24 hours, however, wasn’t able to determine if they were stolen. After conducting surveillance for two days during the low tides the CO finally apprehended the trappers. The trappers initially told the CO that they in fact tended their traps at 1 a.m. that morning. The trappers were informed that the CO had the ability to monitor surveillance recordings from cameras that were in close proximity. The trappers then confessed that they hadn’t checked their traps in two days. Sixty-five conibear traps were seized as evidence and summonses were issued for untagged traps, not tending every 24 hours, trespass and interference.
Conservation Officer Kille apprehended a habitual violator in Logan Township, Gloucester County during muzzleloader season. The Paulsboro man who had been previously convicted of both turkey and deer act violations will now be revoked upon conviction of his current violations. The CO was informed that the man had his father drop him off on private property and while trespassing had harvested a deer. A week later a lengthy interview was conducted and the man admitted that after being dropped off he had shot a deer with his muzzleloader. Additionally, it was determined that he wasn’t wearing orange and failed to tag and check in the deer. The man’s gun was seized as evidence and the appropriate summonses were issued.
Conservation Officer Kille was supplied information from a confidential informant who stated that a man had been shooting deer with a crossbow from within his motor vehicle in West Deptford Township, Gloucester County. The CO ascertained who was responsible and conducted an interview with the hunter. A written confession was obtained where the man admitted to having shot and killed a deer on Sunoco refinery property. He also noted that he shot from the road with a crossbow and without an extended bow permit. The hunter stated that he tracked the deer and discovered it dead, but only retrieved his crossbow bolt and left the deer in the woods. His crossbow was seized as evidence and he was charged with having a loaded weapon within 450’ of a residence, discharging across a roadway, hunting without a valid permit, trespass and failure to tag and check a deer.
Conservation Officer Kille was called by South Harrison Police Department, Gloucester County one evening requesting his assistance with a couple of hunters they suspected of being intoxicated and in possession of a gun. The CO responded and the officers collectively determined that the man who had just harvested a deer was in fact severely impaired. An open container of an alcoholic beverage was discovered within his truck in addition to an uncased gun. The hunter’s firearm was seized as evidence and he was charged with having an open container in a motor vehicle, an uncased gun in a motor vehicle and gunning under the influence.
During the six day firearm deer season, Conservation Officer Stites received detailed information from a witness of illegal road hunting in Upper Pittsgrove Township, Salem County. CO’s Stites and Kille interviewed the suspected road hunters and they denied any wrong doing. The illegal hunter was charged with interference with the duties of a Conservation Officer, trespass for the purpose of hunting, possessing an uncased firearm in a motor vehicle, possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, shooting from a roadway, hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle and possessing a loaded firearm within 450’ of a residence.
Conservation Officer Toppin and Lt. Risher were on patrol on the opening day of the six day firearm deer season in the Winslow Wildlife Management Area in Camden County when they encountered a deer club at the end of the day leaving the management area. Upon inspection of the deer contained in one of the vehicles, it was determined that two of the three deer did not possess a deer transportation tags. The hunters responsible for harvesting the deer were in another vehicle leaving the area and returned a short time later. CO Toppin issued the appropriate summonses for untagged deer.
Conservation Officer Toppin was investigating past complaints of illegal deer hunting in the Pine Hill and Clementon areas of Camden County when he conducted a foot patrol of an area and discovered a dead deer with the antlers removed. He located a nearby hunter and conducted an inspection. It was determined that this hunter had hunted the same property in which he located the dead deer with the antlers removed. During an interview the hunter confessed to tagging the deer for his grandson because the he was hunting without a valid archery license. The appropriate summonses were issued.
Conservation Officer Toppin received a trespass complaint about deer hunters illegally hunting property in Cherry Hill Township, Camden County. The deer hunters were apprehended by the leasee who called CO Toppin. The Officer talked with one trespasser on the complainant’s cell phone and told him to stay at his location. Despite the advice all the illegal hunters left the scene, but not before the complainant photographed their vehicle’s license plate. The next day CO Toppin and Lt. Risher followed-up with interviews and received a full confession of the events the day before. The hunters were charged with trespass for the purpose of hunting, fail to properly tag two deer, failing to exhibit a license upon request and interference of the duties of a Conservation Officer.
Lieutenant Risher responded to an illegal hunting complaint in Newfield Borough, Gloucester County at 12:30a.m. The Police Department apprehended an individual illegally hunting deer at night with a bow and arrow. The hunter was under the influence of alcohol when attempting to shoot deer in the Mayor’s yard. During the field interview the hunter admitted to hunting deer at night in the past. He was charged with hunting deer during the closed season, hunting deer without a valid archery license and without a valid deer permit.
On 11/21/11 COs Scott and Moscatiello inspected the FV Spirit in Point Pleasant Beach after coming in from an offshore lobster trip. While CO Scott was inspecting the holding tanks where the fishermen keep the live lobsters, CO Moscatiello observed three winter flounder on the vessel’s deck under one of the tanks. Before he could say anything, the first mate mentioned there were a few winter flounder under the port side holding tank. The commercial winter flounder season was closed at the time. The appropriate summons was issued.
On 12/02/11 CO Scott settled a case from June 2011 involving the illegal sale of multiple striped bass in a Paterson City fish market. The market paid a total of $600.00 plus court costs after pleading guilty to offering the wild striped bass for sale and not maintaining accurate records for the fish. Afterward, COs Scott and Moscatiello inspected five fish markets in the general area; on the last inspection of the day the COs uncovered 69 undersized conchs. The appropriate summons was issued.
On 12/11/11 COs Scott and Moscatiello were patrolling Atlantic Highlands when they noticed the party boat Elaine-B II coming into port. CO Moscatiello had received prior information on one person in particular. The COs inspected the fisherman suspected of taking undersized tautog. After a thorough inspection by CO Moscatiello, the fisherman was found to be in possession of six undersized tautog. The fish were returned to the water alive and the appropriate summons was issued.
On 12/16/11 CO Scott and CO Moscatiello settled a case in Asbury Park Municipal Court involving the illegal commercialization of live tautog and the illegal possession of several other species of marine finfish. At the time of apprehension, the two men were in possession of 93 black sea bass, 30 weakfish, 36 live tautog, 12 dead tautog, five striped bass, and an assortment of other species. In a plea agreement, the men paid a total of $7000.00 plus court costs after pleading guilty to commercially harvesting tautog in closed season, failure to possess a commercial tautog permit, and a number of recreational violations.
On 11/26/11 CO Swift and CO Klitz inspected a recreational vessel with four individuals aboard at a marina in Manasquan. CO Klitz conducted the inspection and subsequent interviews. The COs were shown 12 striped bass onboard with none of the individuals having filled out their striped bass bonus tags. While CO Klitz was collecting the blank bonus tags, one of the individuals who thought he wasn’t being watched, dropped a striped bass into the water taken from a live well. CO Swift immediately asked everyone to safely disembark the vessel. A thorough inspection of the vessel revealed 15 striped bass onboard and one summer flounder possessed during the closed season. The appropriate summonses were issued.
On 12/16/11, a Maine seafood company, one of its owners and four fishermen were charged in federal court with conspiracy to falsify records and obstruct justice in connection with the over harvesting of Atlantic Sea Scallops off the coast of New Jersey. This case was developed during a joint investigation by New Jersey CO’s and Special Agents from the National Marine Fisheries Service. During the inspection which occurred in Atlantic City in March 2008, the officers uncovered huge scallop overages which were secreted in hidden compartments on the vessels. With more in-depth records inspections of the Maine seafood company, Special Agents found numerous instances of under-reporting of scallops landed by the Maine vessels during two-week periods in March 2007 and 2008. Under the conspiracy charge, the defendants face a maximum fine of $250,000 and five years in penalty. The maximum penalty for the business is a maximum of five years probation and a fine in an amount that is the greater of $500,000 or twice the gross gain.
CO Petruccelli received a complaint of an individual that was leaving a popular tautog fishing spot in Avalon with multiple undersize tautog. CO Petruccelli was familiar with the suspected violator and attempted to intercept the individual at his residence. CO Petruccelli missed the suspected violator at the residence, but managed to observe the suspect’s vehicle heading in the direction of an Asian restaurant which the suspected violator owns. CO Petruccelli followed the suspected violator to the restaurant and made contact with the individual to conduct an inspection of the coolers inside the suspect’s vehicle. The coolers only contained fresh scales and slime. The individual agreed to take CO Petruccelli back to his nearby residence to inspect his catch and voluntarily consented to CO Petruccelli inspecting his cold storage areas. CO Petruccelli inspected three separate freezers each containing dozens of frozen, whole tautog. CO Petruccelli removed ten, undersized tautog. Two additional live undersized tautog were found swimming in a 50 gallon fish tank. In addition to dozens of frozen tautog, CO Petruccelli observed approximately 55 lbs. of shucked sea scallops which he determined were purchased unlawfully for use at the restaurant. With the assistance of NMFS Special Agent Couse, CO Petruccelli proceeded to go back to the individual’s restaurant to conduct a seafood and records inspection. Before CO Petruccelli and the owner arrived at the restaurant, SA Couse was able to thwart an attempt by staff and relatives at the restaurant from hiding and concealing containers of illegal fish, specifically three undersize tautog and five undersize porgies. Also found at the restaurant along with additional legal size frozen tautog, were another 18 lbs. of unlawfully purchased scallops were found. The appropriate summonses were issued and an investigation into the origin of the scallops continues.
After receiving numerous complaints of recreational vessels fishing for striped bass in the Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ), CO Petruccelli conducted a striped bass patrol in the EEZ. Federal fisheries regulations prohibit the taking of striped bass in federal waters. Two vessels were apprehended and three striped bass were seized before the recreational fleet scattered back into state waters. The violations were turned over to National Marine Fisheries Service for prosecution and the seized striped bass were donated to the Wildwood Fireman’s Food Bank.
On December 12, 2011 CO James inspected a vessel with two fishermen at the Beesley’s Point ramp in Upper Twp. The fishermen possessed their legal limit of twelve tautog in a live tank. An inspection of the tautog revealed six of the twelve tautog were well under the legal size limit of 14 inches. One of the individuals on the vessel indicated to CO James that they planned on selling the tautog and had intentions of going to another location to fish after they had already caught their limit. The individuals were issued summons for possessing the undersize tautog and advised of the penalties for selling tautog without a permit.
On December 16, 2011 CO Petruccelli was patrolling the beach of Wildwood Crest and observed the fishing vessel Captain Frank tend gill nets approximately one mile from shore. The gill net season for the Atlantic Ocean closed on December 15, 2011. When the vessel returned to the dock, CO Petruccelli spoke with the Captain who had landed approximately one bushel of menhaden. The Captain indicated that his nets were full of spiny dogfish and that he had intentions of landing and selling the spiny dogfish the following day. CO Petruccelli advised the Captain of his violations and his intent to seize the fish caught in the gill nets. CO Petruccelli made arrangements with the Captain to harvest the spiny dogfish the following day while CO Petruccelli observed from his patrol vessel. 2400 lbs. of spiny dogfish were seized and sold for fair market value. The captain was issued summonses for using an anchored gill net and a drifting gill net during the closed season.