While Conservation Officers Lt. Steve Sutton and
Robert Driscoll were patrolling Wildcat Ridge WMA they observed two young men
riding dirt bikes. The two men fled on their bikes when the Officers attempted
to stop them. Lt. Sutton quickly circled around to another road that had access
to the WMA. He arrived just as the two riders were exiting the WMA onto the
roadway. One of the bikes stalled and the individual was apprehended. The
second attempted to flee at first but then double backed after seeing his
partner in custody. Charges included "Operate dirt bike on WMA", "Unregistered
vehicle on WMA", "Operate off established roadway", "Interference with duties
of a Conservation Officer" and several title 39 violations as well.
On a recent Sunday evening Conservation Officers Joe
Kuechler and Andrew Ocampo observed three different groups of fishermen that
were fishing the Newark Bay Complex in Bayonne. The Officers observed
individuals from two of the groups hiding what appeared to be short striped
bass. One individual hid a fish in the weeds along the shoreline. Another
fisherman placed a fish in a garbage bag and then hid it in a vehicle. The
Officers then conducted an inspection of the fishermen. They were each in possession
of a short striped bass. While they were inspecting the first two groups, the
third group packed up and began to leave when they noticed the Officers. As
they were packing their gear one of them threw a fish into the water. The
Officers quickly stopped them from leaving and were able to retrieve the fish.
It was also a short striped bass. In total three summonses were issued for
possession of short striped bass.
CO Mascio concluded an investigation begun in December. He
had responded to the Ewing Diner after receiving a call from the Ewing Health
Department. The Health Inspector had been conducting an inspection when he
came across deer parts located in a storage freezer in the basement of the
diner. Officer Mascio observed four antlered deer heads as well as two deer
bodies in the freezer. The owner of the diner admitted that five of the deer
belonged to him and claimed that one belonged to a friend. Three of the deer
turned to out to be legally tagged in NJ. The man claimed that the other two
deer had been taken in PA. Upon investigation it was determined that the man
had never checked in the other deer in PA or NJ. The friend also denied
ownership of the other deer carcass. The owner of the diner was charged with
three charges of possession of unregistered deer parts.
CO Mascio conducted an investigation into claims that
several members of a hunting club had registered fictitiously killed deer. The
officer had received information that the club had a quota for deer killed on
property that they had permission to hunt. According to the information, if
the club did not kill enough deer, they would lose their hunting rights on that
property. Officer Mascio conducted several interviews and was able to get confessions
from two individuals who admitted that they had each checked in one deer that
they had never actually killed. Both men were charged with registering a deer
they did not kill.
CO Mascio made two deer cases after reviewing records of a
butcher and a taxidermist. In one case, a farmer had never bothered to
register for a CID number as required and then did not register the deer that
he had killed. He was issued one summons for failing to register a deer during
the fall bow season and one summons for failing to register a deer during the
winter bow season. Another man claimed that his untagged antlered buck head at
the taxidermist was a head that he had "found" in Maryland several years ago.
He was issued summonses for possession of unregistered deer and illegal
possession of deer. The taxidermist was also issued a warning for not keeping
CO McManus was informed about a trap line in Colliers Mills
WMA where the trapper was illegally using leghold traps. CO McManus searched
the area in question and located two steel-jaw leghold traps, two untagged
snares and three cage traps along a stream. Both Officers McManus and Mutone
took turns returning to the trap line on five different occasions to inspect
it, but did not encounter the trapper. Finally, on the fifth time, Officer
McManus returned to the trap line and he encountered a man leaving a wooded
area nearby. When the man saw Officer McManus, he turned and went back into
the woods but was quickly apprehended. After a lengthy inspection, the trapper
admitted that the trap line belonged to him. The trapper was charged with
being in possession of five leghold traps, not checking traps within 24 hours,
not properly tagging his traps and littering on a WMA.
In January's monthly highlights, it was reported that CO
McManus investigated the illegal trapping of a domestic cat by a trapper. The
trapper was issued four summonses for violations. In February's highlights, it
was reported that CO McManus issued the trapper three additional charges for
continued illegal trapping activity. On February 28, the trapper pled guilty
to all seven violations and paid a total of $700 in penalties. He also paid
$300 in restitution to the owners of the cat for veterinary costs incurred as a
result of the cat getting caught in the illegal snare.
Conservation Officer Trembley was patrolling Madhorse Creek
Wildlife Management Area in Lower Alloways Creek in Salem County when he
observed a pair of hunters. He approached the hunters on foot just prior to
them entering a safety zone. Upon inspection, both hunters, who were over 70
years old, did not have valid non-resident hunting licenses. One hunter even
had buckshot in his hunting coat, long after the end of firearm deer season.
CO Trembley issued each hunter a summons for hunting without a license.
Conservation Officer Trembley conducted a trapping patrol in
Lower Alloways Creek in Salem County when he encountered two trappers. Upon
inspection he determined that they did not have a valid trapping license.
They claimed to be indigent and not have the money to purchase one at the time
of the inspection and promised CO Trembley that they would buy one that day.
CO Trembley agreed not to file complaints. Later that day he researched the
Electronic License System to ensure they purchased their licenses and they did
not. CO Trembley received on-going complaints about the two trappers and
conducted another inspection days later. Once again, the inspection proved
that they did not a valid trapping license. CO Trembley issued a summons to
each trapper for trapping without a license.
Conservation Officer Trembley received complaints about the
Palatine Lake section of the Elmer Lake Wildlife Management Area in Pittsgrove
Township, Salem County. While on patrol he observed a vehicle stuck out in the
middle of the field due to off-road activities. CO Trembley interviewed the
driver and issued one summons for leaving the established roadway.
Conservation Officer Kille and Lt. Risher were in South
Harrison Court in Gloucester County to settle a case that involved a hunter
killing a dog during the deer season. The hunter, who was charged with
damaging property while hunting, agreed to a settlement and paid $1000.00 in
fines and the loss of his hunting privileges for five years.
Conservation Officer Kille was patrolling an undeveloped
wooded property owned by American Atlantic in Logan Township, Gloucester
County. He observed an individual stealing scrap metal from the woods and
contacted the Logan Police Department. Based on CO Kille's observations, the
individual was arrested and charged by the Logan Township Police for the
Conservation Officer Kille received information that two men
were selling a mounted black bear in West Deptford, Gloucester County. With
the help of the Special Investigative Unit, CO Kille set up a buy bust and
obtained a search warrant prior to the buy. CO's Kille, Toppin, Stites,
Trembley, James, Vazquez and Lt. Risher conducted the buy and served the search
warrant on the residence and taxidermy studio. The taxidermist was in
possession of two unregistered deer and his records were not complete. He is
being charged with failing to keep accurate records pertaining to his taxidermy
business, two counts of unlawfully possessing white-tailed deer and the sale or
commercialization of the black bear. The other individual in this case who
placed the advertisements on Craig's List and other popular hunting sites were
also charged for placing the ads under the commercialization statute and
offering the black bear for sale. Both men provided written statements
admitting their guilt.
Acting on another Craig List sale, CO Kille investigated the
sale of white-tailed deer in Monroe Township, Gloucester County. CO's Kille,
Toppin and Lt. Risher conducted the buy bust. CO Kille made the purchase and
was exiting the house with the seller as CO Toppin and Lt. Risher pulled into
the driveway and conducted the interview. CO Kille purchased 6 sets of antlers.
The seller provided the officers with a written statement admitting his guilt.
CO Kille issued a summons for the commercialization of white-tailed deer parts
dealing with the sale and another summons for possessing unregistered deer
Conservation Officer Toppin investigated the sale of two
black bears in Gloucester Township, Camden County that appeared on Craig's
List. CO Toppin set up the buy bust with the help of the Special Investigative
Unit. CO's Toppin, Kille, Trembley and Lt. Risher conducted the operation.
After the sale was complete, the officers apprehended the seller and recovered
the buy money. The seller admitted to selling the bear for $3000.00 and
provided a written statement admitting his guilt. CO Toppin issued two
summonses to the seller for commercialization and sale of each black bear.
Lieutenant Risher gave a presentation to Cub Scout Pack 60
in Daretown, Salem County.
Conservation Officer Toppin received information about an
illegally killed buck and conducted an investigation that started in Camden
County and ended in Burlington County at the Lockhead Martin Plant in
Moorestown. CO Toppin conducted interviews together with CO Vazquez about the
illegal kill. They interviewed a pair of hunters who admitted to harvesting
and not properly tagging or registering the deer. The hunters were charged
with failing to tag deer, failing to check or properly register deer, the
unlawful possession of white-tailed deer and for hunting without zone 49 deer
permits during a permit firearm season.
Conservation Officers in District 6 have continued to make
dumping cases on Wildlife Management Areas and are getting good settlement
amounts from the courts for convictions. CO Vazquez made a good case in
Cumberland County for dumping that occurred on the Bevan's WMA. A substantial
amount of debris was dumped on Ackley Road and traced back to the responsible
party. Because of the amount of material involved, the suspect was charged with
the Title 13 charges for dumping of solid waste as well as the Fish and
Wildlife charges for dumping on a WMA.
Conservation Officer James and Lt. Ely apprehended an
individual who attempted to flee on a dirt bike in the Bevans Wildlife
Management Area in Cumberland County. Complaints from turkey hunters regarding
illegal ATV use were being investigated by James and Ely, when a dirt bike and
an ATV came up the trail towards the officers. Being on foot, the officers
stepped to the side of the dirt road and attempted to stop the riders. The dirt
bike turned and took off into the dense woods while the ATV raced past the
officers. The dirt bike stalled in the woods and the officers were able to
apprehend the rider as he was frantically trying to restart his machine. Lt Ely
walked up the trail to see which way the ATV rider had run, only to find the
machine with the front wheels slid up a tree and one of the rear wheels broken
off. Lt Ely and CO James were unable to locate the rider of the damaged ATV.
The dirt bike rider had active warrants and was processed by the NJ State
Police, who were called to transport him to the Port Norris Barracks. Both the
motorcycle and ATV were towed to a secure impound yard. The driver of the dirt
bike claims to not know who the ATV rider was and he remains at large. The ATV
appears to be a highly customized machine and is quite valuable. No one has
reported it stolen and attempts are being made to locate the owner through the
manufacturer. The dirt bike rider was charged with resisting arrest, operating
a vehicle off established roads on a WMA, operating an unregistered vehicle on
a WMA, damaging vegetation on a WMA and interference with the duties of a
On Friday, 2/8/13, ten vessels were granted safe harbor in
Cape May due to impending storm conditions. The majority of the vessels were
fishing approximately 115 miles due east of Seaside Park, approximately 160
miles from Cape May. All vessels were North Carolina (NC) permitted summer
flounder vessels and possessed NC quotas on board. The captains of these
vessels planned on sailing for NC when the weather broke, a few days later. The
vessels were monitored at Cape May docks by Conservation Officers from 2/8 -
2/12, totaling 60 man hours to ensure that none of the fish were illegally
off-loaded. Apparently some of these vessels had fish that were caught days
earlier, so quota transfers from NC were allowed for 5 of the vessels to
prevent spoilage of their catch and allow them to offload their product.
On Saturday, 2/16/13, another three vessels requested safe
harbor in Cape May. All vessels possessed NC summer flounder permits and had NC
quota on board. One vessel left for Virginia on Monday, to offload their NC
quota. The other two vessels offloaded at Lund's docks on Tuesday, 2/18 after
being granted a quota transfer from NC. Conservation Officers again monitored
these vessels comprising a total of 18 man-hours.
On March 1, Conservation Officers Tyler Hausamann and Chris
Moscatiello successfully 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 which hones the
marine region officers' already fine boat handling skills and helps prevent
liability to the Bureau and Division.
Lieutenants Clinton Dravis (District 7) and Jason Snellbaker
(District 8) were made permanent Lieutenants as of March 9, after serving
approximately 1.5 years as provisional. Congratulations to both of these fine officers.
On February 26, 2013, Conservation Officers Joe Soell, Brian
Scott, Chris Petruccelli, Brian Tomlin, Ryan Harp, Brett Nicklow, Sean McManus,
Greg Szulecki, and Lt. Jason Snellbaker inspected a party fishing vessel in
Barnegat Light. The vessel had 40 patrons and 4 crew members on board. The
legal possession limit for black sea bass was 15 fish per person. The vessel
could legally possess 660 whole black sea bass. A total of 1075 black sea bass
were landed (664 black sea bass fillets and 743 whole black sea bass). 20
summonses were issued to patrons for possessing black sea bass over the daily
bag limit. 270 lbs. of seized whole fish were sold to a local dealer and 88
seized fillets were donated to the Lacey Food Bank. The proceeds of these sales
will be held pending the adjudication of the case.
Just after nightfall on March 12, 2013 COs Nicklow and Harp
discovered two illegal fyke nets in Absecon Creek. The nets were set to catch
elvers and covered the entire width of the creek adjoining the Atlantic City
Reservoir. Lt. Snellbaker and CO Petruccelli were called in to assist. At
0230 hours the following morning, CO Petruccelli observed two individuals get
dropped off by a vehicle and make their way to the illegal nets. The two
individuals snatched the nets up quickly and immediately ran back to their
awaiting get-away vehicle. Lt. Snellbaker, CO Nicklow, and CO Harp conducted a
motor vehicle stop of the vehicle to conduct an inspection. The COs
apprehended three individuals from Maine in a rental vehicle possessing 3.85
lbs. of elvers (glass eels) still trapped within the cod ends of the two nets.
Further investigation revealed the subjects had an additional 5.75 lbs. of
elvers (glass eels) stored in a second vehicle located at a local motel where
they had been staying. One of the individuals possessed a license to legally
harvest elvers in Maine. All the individuals acknowledged they were going to
transport the elvers taken in NJ and sell them to an elver dealer in Maine when
the season opened on March 22. The individuals claimed they expected to
receive approximately $2000 per lb. The estimated value of the seized elvers
was $20,000. The individuals were taken into custody and transported to
Absecon Police Department and charged with the following: Take/Possess 24,250
undersize American eels ($727,500), Take/Possess 24,200 American eels over the
limit of 50 ($720,000), Set/Tend fyke net without a license($300 to $3000), Set
fyke net in middle third of stream($300 to $3000), set fyke net with mesh
smaller than 3/8 inches($300 to $3000), failure to mark submerged fyke net($300
to $3000), Possess wildlife for the purpose of sale (3rd degree crime)and
unlicensed entry into a public water facility (4th degree crime). In addition
to the charges above, all of their equipment including their vehicle was
seized. Each fisherman was assessed bail in the amount of $2500.00. One of the
individuals posted bail and the remaining two were remanded to Atlantic County
Correctional Facility where they were incarcerated for four days before posting
On February 22, 2013, CO Klitz responded to an Operation
Game Thief report stating that the charter boat hailing out of Highlands in
Monmouth County, was retaining blackfish in excess of their bag limit and
filleting the fish prior to landing. From a concealed location, CO Klitz waited
for the vessel to return from their day of fishing and conducted an inspection
once they arrived back at their dock. During the inspection, a bucket full of
blackfish and ling fillets was found. After separating the fillets, it was
determined that there were forty blackfish fillets contained in their bucket.
This represented twenty total blackfish. The Captain, mate and patrons were
not in violation of the bag limit; however the captain did admit to allowing
his mate to fillet the fish prior to landing at the dock to save his mate and
patrons some time. The mate was issued a summons for filleting blackfish at sea
prior to landing.
On March, 9 Conservation Officer Moscatiello responded to a
motel located in West Long Branch, Monmouth County, in response to a sewage
spill adjacent to the Turtle Mill Brook which flows directly into the
Branchport Creek, which eventually empties into the Shrewsbury River. The
Shrewsbury River is a shellfish growing area utilized by depuration clammers
for harvesting hard clams. The sewage had backed up and overflowed into the
establishment's parking lot. The workers of the motel scooped up the material
and dumped approximately two hundred pounds of raw sewage on the bank next to
the creek. After collecting the necessary documentation from all parties
involved and staying on scene for more than three hours, CO Moscatiello observed
some of the cleanup procedures. The Monmouth County Health Department was
contacted. Charges regarding the deposition of deleterious substances where
they may drain into the waters of the State are pending and carry a potential
penalty of $6000.