Game Warden Stories: 2-Year-Old Found, Lifetime Ban, Strangled Goose
July 17, 2019
Here's a look at recent cases conservation officers faced in the field all across the nation.
Wildlife officers — or game wardens — face a myriad of incidents when in the field.
These game warden stories range from the serious to the ridiculous.
Compiled from staff and agency reports.
Conservation Officer Greets Missing 2-Year-Old
(From Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources) Lt. Brandon Kieft, a conservation officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, was the first law enforcement agent to arrive at the scene when a group of people reported that they believed they had found a 2-year-old girl who went missing Monday morning, July 15, and touched off a frantic search for her in the north Michigan woods.
More than 20 DNR conservation officers were working the search-and-rescue operation to find Gabriella Vitale, 2, with several other law enforcement agencies, including the Oscoda County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police. Kieft was at the search and rescue command center when the call was received Tuesday morning from the group of people who believed they found the girl.
Kieft headed to the area and arrived at the cabin where the girl was reported to be located, which is about one mile west of M-33 in Oscoda. There, he was able to positively identify the young girl around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“I asked her if she wanted to go see mommy and she lit up – she came right to me and gave me a big hug,” Kieft said.
The girl was wearing half her T-shirt at the time and was missing her pants and shoes. Other than some scrapes and minor bruises, she was in good condition for being on her own in the woods for over 24 hours.
“It was great how many people came together to help. Gabriella’s family was there, also helping,” Kieft said. “There were several law enforcement agencies involved, we all put in hard work and were very lucky.”
Read more about this story
Colo. Man Gets Lifetime Ban
A previously convicted wildlife violator in Colorado has had his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges suspended for the rest of his life after an investigation by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife led to 22 charges, a felony conviction and jail time. The suspension includes 48 other states in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved the suspension last month for Jeff Bodnar, 46, of Hartsel, Colo., the agency reported, Bodnar pleaded guilty in May to possession of a weapon by a previous offender, a class 6 felony, and unlawful possession of two black bears and a mountain lion. Bodnar, who had had his privileges revoked twice before, was fined $4,593.50 and sentenced to 10 days in jail.
“Mr. Bodnar appears to possess a complete disregard for Colorado's hunting laws and a total indifference for wildlife," said wildlife officer Ian Petkash in a news release. "We take these investigations seriously because of the toll someone like this can take on local wildlife populations.”
Bednar had been investigated for years, the agency said. In 2008, he was convicted in federal court and spent 27 months in federal prison for violating the Lacey Act for attempting to sell illegally killed bobcats across state lines. In 2014 Bodnar was suspected of resuming hunting and trapping while under his suspension. Wildlife officers initiated a multi-year investigation that led to his arrest.
Read more here
Strangled Goose at Gas Station
A New York conservation officer investigated a July 4th case involving a Canada goose that had been lured, grabbed and killed by a customer at a gas station In Onondaga County.
According to the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation, employees of the gas station called police to report a customer had lured several geese nearby with crackers, then “grabbed one of the geese, strangled it, tossed it into his van, and quickly drove away.”
The suspect was found several hours later and the man reportedly didn’t deny the alleged offense, but claimed he was attacked by the goose. He later admitted to the whole thing when it was clear his actions were probably on security camera footage.
Charged with taking waterfowl out of season and illegally taking protected wildlife, he faces a $250 fine and 15 days in jail for each charge.
Read more NYDEC police highlights
What Do You Have to Hide?
Montgomery County, Texas, game wardens noticed an unoccupied vehicle with a door open at a camping area in the Sam Houston National Forest, so they investigated. But as they did, a young male approached and told the officers they weren’t entitled to search the vehicle.
The suspect appeared intoxicated and in possession of alcohol, both Class C misdemeanors in a wildlife management area. So, you guessed it; they continued to investigate.
The young man refused to give his name and date of birth, another Class C misdemeanor. Further searching found a vape pen with a waxy substance that tested positive for THC, presumably hash oil. That’s a felony.
Read more Texas Game Wardens Field Notes
Missouri Increases Poaching Penalties
The Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri legislature and governor have taken actions to increase penalties for poaching game animals and other native wildlife species in the state.
Missouri Governor Michael Parson signed HB260 into law July 11. Called the Poaching Bill, it significantly raises fines for those convicted of poaching. HB260 was sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor and Senator Mike Bernskoetter.
New fine amounts include $10,000-$15,000 for each elk or black bear killed illegally, $1,000-$5,000 for each white-tailed buck, $500-$1,000 for each wild turkey, and $500-$1,000 for each paddlefish.
Learn more here