Game Warden Stories: Charges in Dog Attack on Fawn, Milestone Sturgeon

Here's a look at recent cases conservation officers faced in the field all across the nation.

Game Warden Stories: Charges in Dog Attack on Fawn, Milestone Sturgeon

Research interns from Cornell University's Biological Field Station at Shackleton Point pose with a 139-pound lake sturgeon caught and released in Oneida Lake on June 19, 2019. (Photo courtesy Thomas E. Brooking, Cornell University Biological Field Station/New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

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.

Charges Filed in Case of Dog Attack on Fawn

In what was called a “disturbing case” in Colorado, a New Mexico man is accused of allowing his dog to kill a deer fawn, then posting images of the kill on social media.


Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced in a July 29 press release that Michael Garcia, 36, of Las Cruces, N,.M., has been charged with several wildlife crimes, including illegal possession of wildlife, allowing his dog to harass wildlife and unlawful manner of taking of wildlife.


Fines for the offenses are $1,372.50 and an assessment of 20 license-suspension points.

Investigators say Garcia was in the Conejos River area, in Southern Colorado, when his dog chased and killed a fawn. Garcia allegedly posted photos and video of the dog and dead animal on social media, which prompted a tipster to call Operation Game Thief, and CPW began to investigate. Garcia was located and interviewed by Wildlife Officer Rod Ruybalid, who issued the citation.

Garcia, a fishing guide on the Conejos, issued an apology last week on Facebook, according to Fox News 31 in Denver. That post has since been taken down, but in it, he said he “messed up.”

Garcia may pay the fine or appear in court on Sept. 16. In addition, he will also be issued 20 license-suspension points, meaning he must appear before a CPW suspension-hearing officer. This is a separate process that could result in the suspension of license privileges from one to five years. Only the Parks and Wildlife Commission has the authority to impose suspensions.


“This is a disturbing case; we’ve heard from many members of the public wanting CPW to investigate,” said Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager for CPW in the San Luis Valley. “Information that they’ve provided has been greatly helpful to CPW efforts.”

Wildlife crimes can be reported anonymously to Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Those who report are eligible for a cash reward if the tip results in the issuance of a ticket or a conviction.

Caught Sturgeon Huge Milestone for Stocking Program

Restoration of lake sturgeon in New York’s Oneida Lake reached a major milestone recently when a 72.9-inch, 139-pound sturgeon was caught by researchers.


The large sturgeon, estimated to be 20 years old, was one of 11 caught in a single day earlier this summer. Once captured, biologists sedated the sturgeon, measured and weighed the fish, took samples to determine age, tagged it, and allowed the fish to recover before releasing it.

Fisheries researchers have been working under a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation-funded contract at Cornell University's Biological Field Station at Shackleton Point.

"This catch is great news for New York's lake sturgeon recovery program," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a news release. "The 139-pound sturgeon is the largest recorded from Oneida Lake since stocking began and it's an encouraging sign that efforts to recover this ancient fish, listed as a threatened species in New York since 1983, are working.”

DEC began stocking lake sturgeon in Oneida Lake in 1995, to reverse past devastating losses due to overfishing and damming of rivers, which are critical spawning habitats. Since then, DEC has stocked almost 11,000 sturgeon in Oneida Lake. Before the stocking program began, the lake sturgeon population throughout the Great Lakes region was estimated at one percent of historic levels.


Read the Lake Sturgeon Recovery Plan

Checkpoint Nabs Violators

GameWarden
Conservation Officer Matt Burgess and his black lab K9 Cruz assisted in a vehicle checkpoint that issued 30 citations. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources photo)

Utah Conservation officer Matt Burgess and his black lab K9 Cruz assisted in a recent vehicle checkpoint near Strawberry Reservoir, checking for licenses, and fish size and limits. They and 14 other officers stopped 254 vehicles, issued 30 citations and seized 47 illegal fish. The fish were donated to a food bank.

“Cruz was instrumental in finding fish and was able to locate their odor on one of the vehicle door handles during a stop,” Burgess said. “It’s always amazing watching him work and seeing how instrumental he is in helping us do our jobs to protect Utah’s wildlife.”

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