Conservation Officer Szalaj received a complaint from a hunter in Westampton Twp., Burlington County, regarding damage to his vehicle while he was out hunting. The hunter stated that on two occasions his vehicle had been scratched when it was parked on Kings Road. The second occurrence had been caught on video tape after the hunter had installed a trail camera near his parked truck. The suspect had realized he had been filmed and had also tried to damage the trail camera. Westampton Police Department had issued charges of criminal mischief against the suspect. CO Szalaj and Lt. Lacroix interviewed the suspect who admitted that he had keyed the hunter's vehicle because he didn't like hunters and didn't want the man hunting there. CO Szalaj issued the man a summons for hunter harassment.
CO Mascio and Lt. Lacroix received a complaint about possible illegal duck hunters in the Delaware River several weeks after the season had closed. While working the area, CO Mascio observed a hunter launching a boat from the PA shoreline and heading into the Trenton boat ramp. Upon inspection, the hunter admitted to deer hunting in PA without a PA license. CO Mascio charged the man with failing to number his vessel and failing to display a registration sticker. The man's information was turned over to the PA Game Commission who will be charging the man with hunting without a license.
CO Martiak represented the Division and the Bureau of Law Enforcement at the recent monthly meeting of the Middlesex County Sportsman Federation Meeting.
CO Martiak investigated a dumping complaint on the Assunpink WMA. The garbage had originated from a pet supply company in Ewing, Mercer Co. The owner of the company informed CO Martiak that she had placed an ad on Craig's List looking for someone to haul away the company's garbage because their transport vehicle had broken down. She agreed to assist CO Martiak by informing him when the man was going to return to pick up more garbage. CO Mascio and Lt. Lacroix assisted in watching the store and identifying the suspect. CO Martiak then placed a GPS unit in the garbage for the next pickup date. The garbage was then tracked after it was loaded into the truck. The suspect took the garbage to a transfer station in Trenton. CO Martiak made contact with the suspect. During the interview, the suspect admitted that on one occasion he couldn't dump the garbage at the transfer station so he drove to the Assunpink WMA and dumped it there. Charges for dumping on a State WMA and illegal transport of solid waste were issued.
CO Martiak observed a vehicle known to be owned by a revoked hunter parked in an area commonly used by hunters. CO Martiak observed the man exit the woods a short time later wearing hunting clothes and a backpack and carrying something wrapped in a camouflage jacket. The man put the object in the back of his vehicle. CO Martiak stopped the man and asked him what he had been doing in the woods. The man immediately stated that he hadn't been hunting, but that he had been working on his tree stand. The officer asked to look at what the man had put in the car and the man showed him a pair of bolt cutters. Inside the backpack was a large amount of cut copper wire. The man admitted under questioning to trespassing and stealing copper wire from the Hercules Property. The Sayreville PD was contacted and arrested the man for possession of burglary tools. The PD requested that Officer Martiak issue a summons for defiant trespass.
The Central Region Office received a complaint of a possible safety zone violation in Hamilton Township, Mercer County. Lt. O'Rourke responded and met with Hamilton Police Officers at the scene. The homeowner making the complaint provided the officers with a description of the hunters and their vehicle and the location where one of them shot. The homeowner said the hunters left the area when he attempted to confront them. The officers searched the area and found three untagged antlerless deer and three spent shotgun shells. The shells were 225 feet from the complainants' home. Meanwhile, a Hamilton Police Officer in another area of the township located a vehicle that matched the description of the vehicle provided by the homeowner. The officers went to the location of the vehicle and upon arrival, observed two hunters matching the description given by the homeowner walking towards the vehicle. When questioned they denied hunting the area where the complaint was made. Lt. O'Rourke asked to see the hunter's shotgun shells. The shells were identical to the ones found at the prior location. Lt. O'Rourke showed the hunter the spent shells and explained to him why he was being questioned. After some thought, he admitted that he had shot the deer. Lt. O'Rourke inspected the hunter's license and permit. He had a valid firearm license and a DMZ 14 shotgun permit. He did not have a permit for DMZ 17, the zone where he shot the deer. The appropriate summonses were issued.
Lt. O'Rourke received a call at the Central Region Office of possible illegal deer hunting in Millstone Township, Monmouth County. The caller explained the following. She heard a gunshot at 5 pm and thought it was very close to her home. She got into her vehicle and drove to the area where she thought the shot came from. She drove into a local park and saw two men standing next to a pick-up truck along the edge of a field. As she approached the vehicle, the men got in it and drove away. She was able to copy the license plate. She looked around the area where the truck was parked and found a deer that had been shot. She returned to her home and called in the complaint. Lt. O'Rourke told her he would meet her at the scene. Meanwhile he ran the license plate and found it was registered to an individual residing in Roosevelt, which borders Millstone. He contacted CO Mutone and sent her to Roosevelt. When Lt. O'Rourke met the complainant at the scene, the deer was gone. CO Mutone went to the address in Roosevelt and was told that the owner of the vehicle was out hunting somewhere. Knowing that the deer was gone, she then went to a local deer check station. She found the truck in the parking lot with a registered deer in the bed. Two men in hunting attire soon approached the vehicle. One of the men said it was his deer. CO Mutone explained she was investigating a deer hunting complaint. She asked them to take her to the location where the deer was shot. She followed them to a wooded area in Roosevelt. There was no evidence indicating a deer had been shot there. The hunter then admitted he shot the deer at the location in Millstone. He said he and his hunting partner were driving around looking for deer. He drove into the park and saw a deer standing off the road way. He stopped his truck in the road, got out, uncased and loaded his gun and shot the deer. The officers went back to the scene the following morning. They found pellet strikes in the vegetation indicating he shot directly at a road that was 400 feet from where he shot. Also, the location where the hunter said he shot was less than 450 feet from an occupied building. The hunter was charged with hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle, hunting within 450 feet of an occupied building and shooting from a road. He was also charged with careless discharge of a firearm because he shot directly at a heavily traveled county road, at rush hour.
CO Mutone was able to conclude the investigation of a stolen deer initiated in December. A hunter had left a message on the Central Region Office's voice mail saying someone had stolen his antlered deer taken on the last day of the 6-day Firearm Deer Season. He stated that police officers from Manchester Township in Ocean County may have taken his deer. CO Mutone contacted Manchester PD and was told that the caller was actually a suspect in the theft of a deer from a hunting club in their township. One of their detectives was in the process of getting a search warrant for the suspect's property. CO Mutone contacted the club member from whom the deer was really stolen. He took her to the gut pile of his deer to collect tissue samples. The police detective served the warrant and was able to collect several tissue samples. All of the samples collected were sent to the Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory at East Stroudsburg University. The Lab report just came back with a DNA match for the samples. Manchester will charge the suspect with the theft of the deer. CO Mutone charged him with presenting for registration a deer that he himself did not kill. He was also charged with transportation of a deer without written permission of the owner.
Conservation Officers Stites, Toppin, and Trembley responded to a complaint from CO Kille regarding illegal deer hunting activities in Oldsman Township, Salem County. Upon arrival the officers encountered eight deer hunters during the shotgun permit season along State Highway Route 130. Three of the deer hunters did not have valid shotgun season permits. The appropriate summonses were issued.
Conservation Officers Stites and Toppin responded to a complaint in Woodstown Borough in Salem County for an illegal deer complaint on the last day of permit shotgun season. The officers interviewed the suspected hunter. He admitted to illegally possessing a white-tail deer without a deer possession seal. The appropriate summons was issued to the hunter.
Conservation Officer Stites responded to Quinton Township, Salem County for an injured Bald Eagle along Route 49 and the Alloway Creek. He recovered the bird from Alloway Creek by boat and turned it over to Lt. Risher who was able to transport the injured bird to a local veterinarian. The Bald Eagle was diagnosed with a case of lead poisoning and released unharmed back into the wild after treatment.
Conservation Officer Stites responded to a trespass complaint from a local farmer in Upper Pittsgrove Township, Salem County. With the aid of night vision, CO Stites observed two hunters walking in the woods tracking a deer. CO Stites apprehended the two hunters with the deer which was left on the edge of the field untagged. CO Stites issued the hunters summonses for untagged deer and trespass for the purpose of hunting.
An off-duty Salem County Sheriff observed an individual driving in Pennsville Township, Salem County who purposely left the travel lane to run over a mallard duck along the shoulder of the road. The Sheriff was able to get the license plate and turned the case over to CO Stites. The Sheriff's Officer is issuing summonses for all the motor vehicle violations and CO Stites issued the appropriate summonses for the fish and wildlife violations.
Conservation Officers Kille and James responded to a Non Target Impact at a residence in East Greenwich Township, Gloucester County. The East Greenwich Police Department was the first to respond and aided in the officers investigation. The hunter admitted to shooting at a deer in a field with the house in the background. The residence sustained seven pellet strikes causing damage to the siding. The hunter was charged with careless discharge and damage to property while hunting.
Lieutenant Risher followed up on a Non Target Impact that CO's James and Kille initiated in Stow Creek Township, Cumberland County. On the last day of permit shotgun deer season a residence was struck with a single pellet of buckshot. The homeowner shouted to the hunter after he shot the residence and the hunter fled the scene. Through an investigation the officers were able to determine the hunter's identity. CO Kille and Lt. Risher interviewed the suspect and he gave a full confession. The hunter was charged with hunting without a valid shotgun deer permit, careless discharge and damage to property while hunting.
Lieutenant Risher was conducting trapping enforcement at a local ramp along the Stow Creek in Stow Creek Township, Cumberland County. He inspected a pair of trappers with a boat load of traps and 23 muskrats in their possession. All of the traps were tagged correctly but they did not have the required trapping license. They blamed the poor economy for not buying a license and said they just did not think they would be checked. Lt. Risher issued both trappers a summons for trapping without a valid license.
Lieutenant Risher gave a presentation to local Cub Scout Pack 60 of Daretown in Salem County.
Lieutenant Risher gave a presentation to the Police Explorer Post that serves the PennsGrove and Carney's Point area of Salem County.
Trapping complaints have been much more prevalent this year than in previous years. Conservation Officers in District Six have responded to trespass complaints, the use of illegal sets, the use of legholds and other equipment violations. CO James responded to a complaint in the dune area of Corson's Inlet State Park (Belleplain State Forest) Ocean City, Cape May County where deer had been caught in a snare. Trapping is illegal in this natural area section of the park. CO Vazquez has responded to trappers trespassing in Atlantic County and CO's Fox and Kille have been working on a case that involves the use of leghold traps.
Conservation Officer James found construction debris dumped along a dirt road in the Peaslee WMA, Cumberland County. Among the trash was a discarded box from a replacement front door, some empty cans of spray weather sealant and several pieces of mail with address labels. When CO James arrived at the address listed on the mail, he observed a new front door (matching the picture on the discarded box) and it had been weather sealed with spray sealer. After a short interview, the subject confessed. The appropriate summonses were issued.
Conservation Officer Vazquez investigated a hunting accident in South Harrison Township, Gloucester County where one hunter was struck by pellets from his hunting partner. Two rabbit hunters were surrounding a brush pile when one hunter shot into the pile striking the other hunter in the legs. The hunters were only 23 yards apart and the victim was hospitalized for the injuries he sustained. The shooter was charged with negligent discharge and careless discharge of a weapon while hunting.
Conservation Officer Vazquez briefed the Endangered and Non-game Species Program volunteers at the annual Maurice River Eagle Festival in Cumberland County. He advised them what to do if they needed to contact Law Enforcement regarding the eagle sites for which they are responsible.
In another dumping case, Conservation Officer James found large bags of household trash dumped on the Buckshutem WMA, Cumberland County, behind a residence. The occupant initially was agitated by the officer's presence and claimed that the wind must have blown the very large and heavy bags to their location. The location was approximately 200 yards away through the woods and underneath a large cedar tree in an open field. When shown the dumpsite, the subject acknowledged ownership of the trash, but could not explain how it got there. He later suggested that he may have been driving around out there with the trash on the back of his open tailgate and it fell off without him noticing it. The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.
CO Soell apprehended two licensed fyke net fishermen possessing a combined total of 108 winter flounder in Barnegat Township. Each fisherman is allowed to possess a commercial limit of 38 winter flounder per day. A summons was issued to one of the netters for possession of 32 winter flounder over the daily commercial limit. The fish were released alive at the dock. On February 13, 2012, the fisherman pled guilty to the summons and was assessed a penalty of $300.00 plus costs.
On 1/28/12 CO's Nicklow, Scott, and Moscatiello were conducting a patrol of clam depuration activities in the Raritan and Sandy Hook Bays. During their patrol they located one depuration clammer who appeared to be power raking hard clams. After conducting surveillance and taking video footage of the depurator, the CO's noticed that the clammer would enter the cabin to put his motor in gear, at which time the boat would move opposite to the flow of the tide. After identifying the individual the CO's moved to another location to conduct surveillance on other depurators. Several days later CO Moscatiello contacted the individual, explained to him what they had observed on that day and issued the appropriate summons.
On 2/12/12 CO Moscatiello received a complaint about a farm market selling short crabs in Iselin. After conducting a routine market inspection, no violations were found. CO Moscatiello spent the rest of his patrol inspecting several other fish markets in the area. On the last inspection of the day, CO Moscatiello inspected the Kam Man seafood market in Edison Township and observed a live tank that contained undersized Atlantic Cod, several undersized Black Sea Bass, and one undersized American Lobster. The appropriate summonses were issued. On another occasion, CO Moscatiello followed up on information that a new market in Monmouth County was possibly selling wild striped bass. CO Moscatiello located the market and conducted a routine fisheries inspection which yielded one whole wild striped bass and two wild striped bass fillets for sale as well as one rack from a wild striped bass. The appropriate summons was issued.
On 2/15/12 CO Moscatiello was conducting inspections of commercial fishing vessels in Pt. Pleasant. While conducting surveillance of the ocean for incoming vessels, CO Moscatiello spotted a small boat approximately two miles off shore heading north. CO Moscatiello followed the vessel to the Shark River Inlet were he conducted an inspection of the vessel, which possessed a state lobster pot permit. Several undersized lobsters were located, and a summons was issued for possession of undersized lobster.
CO Ryan Harp recently completed the Marine Law Enforcement Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) located in Glynn County (GLYNCO) Georgia. This program consists of 19 class days focusing on the safe and proper operation of marine patrol vessels, with specific training in law enforcement operations. Some specific areas of study covered were nautical chart interpretation, pursuit, stop and approach of a vessel, boarding procedures and officer survival afloat. This is a rigorous, in-resident course and CO Harp is to be commended for his efforts.
Lt. Snellbaker and CO Tomlin took advantage of the mild weather in late January by conducting a boat patrol on the Great Egg Harbor, Middle, and Tuckahoe Rivers. Lt. Snellbaker and CO Tomlin came across a string of eight commercial crab pots in the Middle River. The commercial crab pot season closed on November 30th. The crab pots were hauled onto the patrol vessel and seized as evidence. CO Tomlin interviewed the commercial crabber who owned the gear then issued summonses for failure to tend crab pots at least once every 72 hours and failure to remove crab pot gear within three days of the end of the season.
On February 8, 2012 CO Petruccelli observed two fishermen from New York carrying a large, heavy cooler as they attempted to exit a party fishing vessel in Sea Isle City. As he approached the vessel to inspect the cooler, the fishermen attempted unsuccessfully to retreat to the back of the boat to avoid CO Petruccelli. CO Petruccelli's inspected the cooler and found 41 undersized tautog and 35 over the limit live tautog contained in weighted mesh bags. The appropriate summonses were issued.
The Marine Region Office received a citizen complaint regarding gross violations of the possession of Black Sea Bass during the closed season aboard the party fishing vessel Jamaica out of Brielle. On February 18, 2012 two CO's covertly boarded the FV Jamaica for a 19 hour offshore wreck fishing trip. The two COs were among a total of 55 patrons on board the vessel, whose website states that the vessel was targeting cod, pollock, and ling. However, upon the vessel's return the covert CO's reported an almost 100% violation rate involving patrons catching and retaining large quantities of black sea bass during the federal and state closed season. Very few of the advertised targeted species were landed. The covert COs advised uniformed officers that patrons conspired to abandoned their fish coolers if confronted by law enforcement at the dock.
Once the FV Jamaica returned to its dock Lt. Snellbaker, COs Martiak, McMannus, Petruccelli, Nicklow, Mascio, and Moscatiello conducted a fisheries inspection resulting in 37 summonses issued for possessing black sea bass during the closed season. A total of 819 black sea bass were seized from the FV Jamaica, weighing approximately 2400 lbs. The investigation is ongoing and may yield additional charges.