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Conservation Officer (CO) Zach Painter attended a career fair at Gogebic Community College for students interested in a career in outdoor recreation. CO Painter gave a presentation to the students on the job duties of a conservation officer along with an overview of the hiring process.
COs Alex VanWagner and Anna Viau spoke to the Iron County Golden K Club during one of the club’s weekly meetings. The COs answered a variety of questions and explained recent regulation changes.
In Menominee County, CO Steve Sajtar observed a vehicle towing a covered trailer on an off-road vehicle (ORV) trail. Noticing that the trailer did not have brake lights, CO Sajtar followed the vehicle and trailer for a short distance on the trail. Eventually, the vehicle came to a stop in the middle of the trail. CO Sajtar contacted the operator and discovered that he was transporting open intoxicants and had a loaded shotgun. Citations were issued for the violations.
Sergeant (Sgt.) Mark Leadman was patrolling in Marquette County when he came upon a vehicle parked in the middle of a dirt road. He immediately observed a subject feverishly trying to cover something in the bed of his truck. Sgt. Leadman contacted the subject and asked what he was trying to hide as he noticed fresh feathers all over the ground and in the bed of the truck. The subject admitted to having shot a turkey and not having a license for it. He then produced a freshly breasted out turkey from a cooler in the bed of the truck. Sgt. Leadman checked the vehicle and located an uncased and loaded shotgun inside the cab as well. The subject stated he shot the bird approximately 15 miles away and drove to this location to breast it out before heading home. The subject was issued a ticket for possessing a turkey without a license.
COs John Kamps and Jeremy Sergey were patrolling Goose Lake in Marquette County when they checked a pair of waterfowl hunters. The hunters stated they had harvested a couple of diver ducks but when CO Kamps checked the birds, he discovered they were grebes, a protected species. CO Sergey also found lead shot in their ammunition bag. The birds were seized, and law enforcement action was taken.
COs Michael Evink and Sgt. Mark Zitnik participated in the Natural Resource Commission meeting held at Bay College in Delta County. The COs provided security for the event.
COs Steve Butzin, Rob Freeborn, and Corporal (Cpl.) Mike Hammill taught at a field day for a hunter safety course in Escanaba. 25 students successfully completed the class and received their hunter safety certificates.
COs Brandon Maki and Andrea Dani hosted two hunter education classes in Alger County. Shortly after departing one of the classes, CO Dani observed a vehicle parked along a roadway that appeared to be disabled. CO Dani contacted the driver who stated all was well and that they were waiting for a ride because they were locked out of their vehicle. CO Dani recognized this location as an odd place to park a vehicle as it is a decently busy county road surrounded by private property. The occupants were visibly nervous and walked around to the driver’s side of the CO’s patrol truck, into the roadway. CO Dani then observed they were trying to block her line of view to the opposite ditch, where she ultimately located an untagged, partially field-dressed 3-point buck. CO Maki, an Alger County sheriff’s deputy, and a Michigan State Police (MSP) trooper responded to the scene and assisted as they heard the radio traffic and recognized the name of the driver as a known felon. A search of the vehicle led to open intoxicants, a controlled substance, multiple spotlights, a crossbow set to fire, and more. The driver admitted he shot the deer with his crossbow. He was booked at the Alger County Jail on an unrelated warrant and the vehicle was impounded. A report will be submitted to the Alger County prosecutor for the illegally taken deer, failure to immediately tag a deer, recreational trespass, and other violations.
CO Andrea Dani assisted with a Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) event in Washtenaw County. CO Dani participated as a mentor to first-time female hunters. The students were taught basic hunting laws, scouting techniques, equipment safety, how to track a deer, how to field dress deer, shot placement, and were given adequate range time to become comfortable with crossbows. CO Dani had the privilege of being paired with a student who harvested her first deer on the first morning of the hunting portion of the event, which happened to be a beautiful 10-point buck. In total, seven deer were harvested, two bucks and five does, which will aid in the population management on Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation land.
CO Brandon Maki traveled to the Northern Michigan University campus with Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife biologist Heather Shaw and DNR Fisheries biologist John Bauman to answer questions on WMNU-TV’s “Ask the DNR” show.
COs Adam LeClerc and Duane Budreau assisted in the search for an elderly gentleman with Alzheimer’s disease. The COs assisted multiple agencies and search and rescue personnel in Center Township in Emmet County. The COs searched several remote areas of the surrounding townships but were unsuccessful in finding the individual.
COs Chad Baldwin and Nathan Beelman attended a hunter safety class in East Jordan. The COs spoke to 40 students about what a conservation officer does, laws pertaining to hunting, hunting ethics, hunting law changes, and how to register a deer. The COs made themselves available to parents as well and answered questions throughout the field day, ensuring everyone had an opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, and give opinions.
CO Duane Budreau assisted the DNR Parks and Recreation Division with the removal of an abandoned sailboat that ran aground off the shoreline of Wilderness State Park back in September. The subject responsible for walking away from the boat was cited for abandonment of a vessel on public waters. The court fined the man $2,500 for his decision.
While working salmon spawning activity on the Jordan River, CO Andrea Albert observed two subjects snagging salmon. Both subjects would locate salmon, place their lures near the salmon, and aggressively jerk the lure through the water in an attempt to snag the fish. CO Albert overheard one of the subjects, who was using a fly rod with a Meps Spinner, explain to the other how to snag the salmon by placing the hook over the side of the fish. CO Albert also heard the second subject state the lure was just bouncing off the fish and out of frustration yell, “Snag it!” When contacted they had retained two foul hooked salmon. Tickets were issued for the snagging violations and the two illegally taken salmon were seized.
Sgt. Mark DePew along with COs Tom Oberg, Kyle Cherry, and Jack Gorno attended an active shooter training in Cheboygan County that was hosted by the Tuscarora Township Police Department. Several local law enforcement agencies participated in the training as well. The training focused on officer response to an active shooter situation in a school. Each officer was put through several different scenarios where they entered the school in teams and their mission was to locate the shooter, eliminate the threat, and conduct first aid to any victims.
CO Kyle Cherry assisted the Gaylord City Police in Otsego County in locating a suicidal female subject who had called 911. She stated she would run into the woods with a knife and harm herself. CO Kyle Cherry and a Gaylord city officer were able to locate the subject and safely place her into protective custody. The subject was then transported to the hospital for treatment.
CO Paul Fox assisted deputies and an MSP K9 unit in searching an area for a cold case missing person who is believed to be deceased in southern Presque Isle County. The subject was not located, and the investigation continues.
CO Alex Bourgeois was patrolling near Fletcher Pond when he observed two trucks in the boat launch parking lot. CO Bourgeois waited nearly 45 minutes after shooting hours for the group of hunters to come in. He observed a duck boat coming towards the dock with no lights on at all in nearly pitch-black conditions. CO Bourgeois conducted a check and discovered that two of the hunters did not have a Federal Migratory Bird Stamp and that one of them had an unsigned stamp. The other hunters in the group also had purchased E-stamps but stated that they had not gotten them yet. CO Bourgeois issued a ticket to the two hunters for hunting without a Federal Migratory Bird Stamp, and a ticket to the other hunter for hunting with an unsigned Federal Migratory Bird stamp.
CO William Kinney has been attempting to locate an illegal camping suspect on state land in Benzie County for several months. The individual has been living on state land and had generated multiple complaints. After several months, CO Kinney located the individual walking down the road in the proximity of the campsite. CO Kinney addressed the multiple violations with the camper and issued a citation for camping on state land for more than 15 days.
CO Cheyanna Rizor was patrolling Gladwin County on public land recently on her issued ORV. CO Rizor was able to map out several illegal ORV trails before the start of the archery deer season. One of the illegal ORV trails led to two illegally baited tree stands nearby. When archery season opened, CO Rizor observed an ORV parked near one of the baited stands. CO Rizor contacted the suspect and issued a citation for the illegal baiting activity. A warning was also given for operating an ORV in a closed area.
CO Charlie Jones was recently on a patrol for the waterfowl weekend in Kalkaska County. The previous day, CO Jones had received a complaint that multiple subjects were trespassing on private property to waterfowl hunt. Trespassing signs were also removed from a blind that was located on the private property. CO Jones patrolled to the lake and observed decoys in the water near the complaint location. CO Jones contacted two waterfowl hunters hunting out of the blind in question. Upon further investigation, both hunters did not have permission. A citation was issued to one hunter for hunting waterfowl without a license. A report will be submitted to the Kalkaska County Prosecutor’s Office for recreational trespass.
CO Jacob Hamilton was working a bait complaint on public land he received in Kalkaska County. CO Hamilton was forced to use his ORV to access the area because logs had been stacked across the road to keep vehicles out of the area. CO Hamilton contacted the first subject who was found hunting over a large bait site. The subject admitted to putting out the bait and that he knew it was illegal to bait. He also admitted to piling logs on the road to prevent vehicle traffic. CO Hamilton asked the hunter if he was hunting alone, and he said his adult son was hunting about 400-yards away at another baited location. CO Hamilton contacted the second hunter who was also found hunting over a large bait site. CO Hamilton issued both hunters citations for baiting deer in an area closed to baiting and issued written warnings for no name/address on tree stand as well as for obstructing the road.
COs Adam Beuthin and Joey Closser were on Saginaw Bay checking waterfowl hunters when they observed a group picking up decoys. When the COs stopped and asked if they had any luck, one of the individuals advised he had shot a coot. Upon further inspection of the harvested bird, it was properly identified as a pied-billed grebe. The individual was issued a citation for taking a non-game species.
COs Mike Eovaldi, Paul Lyden, Nick McNamee, and Sgt. Jason Smith worked a late-night salmon snagging patrol on the east side of Sanilac County. The COs watched a group of anglers attempt to snag salmon for several hours. Eventually, one of the subjects successfully snagged and killed two Atlantic salmon. The COs contacted the anglers and wrote citations for retaining foul hooked fish and attempting to snag. Reimbursement will be sought through the Sanilac County court for the two salmon that were illegally taken.
CO Mike Eovaldi and Sgt. Robert Hobkirk were patrolling northern Sanilac County for the first day of the regular waterfowl season. On one check, CO Eovaldi asked to see the hunter’s shells. It was then discovered that over half the shells in the hunter’s possession were lead shot. CO Eovaldi wrote a citation for possession of toxic shot while waterfowl hunting and gave the hunter a warning for no license on person.
While working a late evening patrol along the Clare and Isabella County line, COs Josh Russell and Mike Haas heard a traffic accident reported over the radio. The COs were less than three miles from the scene and arrived within minutes. The driver of the vehicle was staggering around with significant injuries to his head and face. The COs updated medical personnel as they made their way to the scene, and they investigated the crash site. The driver stated he had left a wedding reception and hit a deer which then caused him to go off the road and into a large culvert. After inspecting the area and the totaled vehicle, it was evident there was no deer involved and the COs suspected the large number of open alcohol containers in the vehicle may have played a role in the driver’s accident. Once questioned about the alcohol, he admitted to drinking a “few beers” throughout the night. The subject was transported by ambulance to the hospital where a search warrant was issued to collect a blood sample for a blood/alcohol test. The driver was treated for his injuries and charges are pending for drinking while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.
CO Carter Woodwyk was checking anglers at the Allegan Dam in Allegan County when he checked a subject’s successful catch of sunfish and catfish. The CO noticed a channel catfish that did not appear to be 12 inches long, making it illegal to keep. Upon measurement, it was confirmed the channel catfish was only approximately 11 inches in length. The CO ran a file check on the subject who came back with a warrant related to a citation he received in the spring of this year for taking/possessing approximately 34 sunfish over his daily limit of 25. The subject was given a verbal warning for possessing an undersized channel catfish and lodged on his warrant at the Allegan County Jail.
CO Travis Dragomer observed an angler fishing upon the St. Joseph River near a designated trout stream who had a live salmon on the stringer. CO Dragomer contacted the angler as he arrived back at the parking lot. He no longer had the fish with him, but he had a plastic bag of salmon eggs with him. The angler stated that he found a dead fish on the bank of the river, and he took its eggs. After further investigation, it was determined that the angler foul hooked the salmon. After having it on the stringer for a while he then harvested the eggs from the fish and threw the rest of the fish on the bank prior to leaving. A citation was issued for taking the salmon for the sole purpose of removing its eggs and another citation was issued for littering.
CO Cameron Wright was off duty when he received a phone call around midnight from a St. Joseph County Sheriff's deputy who stated that he responded to a poaching complaint along with the MSP. They located the suspect vehicle and upon contact, the officers located an uncased 20-gauge shotgun, hunting knives, a flashlight, empty boxes of 20-gauge slugs, and discharged 20-gauge slug casings. The officers identified and interviewed the suspects and then forwarded the information to CO Wright for follow up. The following day, COs Wright and Olivia Moeller went back to the field to search for additional evidence. Unable to locate any deer or additional evidence, the COs told the neighbors to keep an eye out for turkey vultures circling in the area. The next day, CO Wright received a phone call stating that the turkey vultures were circling a soybean field. CO Wright arrived shortly after and found a dead buck with an obvious bullet hole through the chest that appeared to be the size of a 20-gauge slug. CO Wright then contacted an MSP trooper with a K9 trained in locating bombs and discharged firearm casings. The trooper came to the area of the dead buck and searched the ditch line with his K9. The K9 quickly alerted to an item and a discharged 20-gauge slug casing was located along the road. The suspect has since been interviewed and confessed to the shootings. More evidence is being gathered before charges are requested. Thank you to the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office and MSP for their assistance on this case. Without their help, this suspect may not have been caught and identified.
CO Nick Thornton investigated a baiting complaint involving a very large pile of corn. CO Thornton was able to locate the hunter at that location and issue a citation for the violation. During questioning, CO Thornton asked the individual how he was able to get so much corn that far back on the property and the individual said he would carry two 50-pound bags of corn each time he visited the property as a form of exercise.
COs Les Bleil and David Schaumburger responded to a medical emergency while patrolling Pointe Mouillee for the waterfowl opener. When the COs arrived, they witnessed a man laying down on the edge of a bank with blood on his face and arms. The man stated that his dog had a seizure and bit him and his friend, badly. CO Bleil asked for consent to render first aid but both subjects denied help. The subject who was trying to keep the dog warm was more worried about his dog being hypothermic, so CO Bleil gave the subject his jacket to help the dog warm up faster instead of using the wet clothes. The COs then transported all parties involved back to the parking area where the subjects were able to get proper first aid from CO Schaumburger and warm up in their vehicles.
CO Griffin Korican was called to a complaint in the early morning on opening day of waterfowl season for a suspect allegedly throwing firecrackers at hunter’s boats as they went past his residence along a canal. The CO contacted the suspected individual and learned the suspect had thrown several firecrackers from his door out towards boats in the water at approximately 5:00 AM. The CO issued the individual a citation and advised them to immediately stop throwing firecrackers at boats.
COs Kris Kiel, Brad Silorey, and USFWS Special Agent Katie Azar checked two waterfowl hunters in a motorboat coming off the Harsens Island managed area. While checking their shotguns for plugs, it was discovered both shotguns were still completely loaded. Citations for the safety violations were written.
While on patrol in Macomb County, CO Brad Silorey heard a call from county dispatch. A man had escaped police and emergency medical technicians’ custody, jumped from a vehicle, and off a bridge. The man was swimming down the river to evade law enforcement and grabbed a sharp object and began to inflict self-harm while in the water. When CO Silorey arrived on scene, the subject was on a small island 20 to 30 yards off the shoreline. CO Silorey was familiar with the area and assisted in organizing a water rescue. The man was bleeding from the neck and not responding to police or EMS on shore. While waiting for a boat to arrive, CO Silorey was able to wade through the water with hip boots and get access to the island. Multiple deputies followed CO Silorey and the man was taken into custody and his injuries were treated.
CO Nicholas Ingersoll and Probationary Conservation Officer (PCO) Elliot Worel were patrolling for hunting activity in Erie Township when they observed five men throwing a cast net off a bridge near Halfway Creek. The COs contacted the anglers and found that none of them had fishing licenses. Additionally, the men had two storage bins filled with alewife, one of which was already stored in their parked car down the road. The COs dumped out the bins to verify all the species caught and found six undersized walleye, one undersized largemouth bass, a sheep head, two carp, and multiple shad. Three of the anglers were cited with some of the charges being fishing with no license, possession of undersized species, taking of species by unlawful methods, and use of a cast net on inland waters.
GREAT LAKES ENFORCEMENT UNIT (GLEU)
Several members of GLEU attended the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Law Enforcement Committee fall meeting in Duluth, Minnesota. Case studies were presented, intelligence shared, and relationships established and strengthened with officers from across the Great Lakes basin.
Cpls. Craig Milkowski and Todd Sumbera followed up on an antiquities complaint on Drummond Island. The subject had in possession numerous wood pieces, nails and spikes from the steamship Agnes W. that went down off Traverse Point in 1918. The officers conducted an interview and photographed all shipwreck pieces on scene. The investigation is ongoing to determine if possession is legal.
Cpl. Mike Hammill was on his way to Fairport when he noticed a pickup truck parked within the Fayette State Park boundaries. Cpl. Hammill returned to the truck and ran the owner for license purchases. A check revealed no purchases for the 2023 season. A short while later Cpl. Hammill contacted the owner of the vehicle, who never switched over registration and had no insurance. The new owner was also found cutting cedar and pine boughs within the park without a permit. A citation was issued.
Cpl. Jon Busken was contacted by Fisheries Division staff regarding a pet store whose owner was non-compliant during an AIS-related visit. Cpl. Busken conducted a pet store inspection at the same location. A warning was issued for operating without a License to sell Aquatic Species and Plants.