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Conservation Officer (CO) Alex VanWagner was patrolling Iron County and observed a vehicle in front of him cross the center line numerous times. A traffic stop was initiated, and the driver showed signs of impairment upon contact. Standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) were administered, and a preliminary breath test (PBT) sample was given. The driver was arrested for operating while intoxicated (OWI) and lodged at the Iron County Jail.
CO Alex VanWagner was contacted by a Michigan State Police (MSP) sergeant and requested to respond to a residence in Ontonagon County for a domestic assault as there were no local units available. CO VanWagner arrived on scene with MSP troopers and assisted on scene. A female subject was arrested for domestic assault and the incident was turned over to the MSP.
COs Michael Evink and Robert Freeborn conducted a Hunters Safety Field Day in Manistique. 31 new hunters passed the test.
COs Brandon Maki and Andrea Dani attended a depredation training in Gaylord. The COs and other Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Division staff learned how different species kill and what type of sign to look for. They also learned how to differentiate between animals that had been killed versus those that died naturally and were later fed upon.
Sergeant (Sgt.) Calvin Smith attended a Maritime Security meeting at Lake Superior State University. Numerous agencies attended and participated in several tabletop exercises regarding various marine events on the St. Mary’s River.
COs Andrea Albert and Duane Budreau taught hunter safety at the Chain of Lakes Sportsman’s Club in Antrim County with several volunteer instructors. Forty-five participants earned their hunter safety certification. The COs answered numerous questions from parents and attendees.
CO Andrea Albert was patrolling along the Jordan River during the salmon spawning season in the late afternoon in a remote area of Antrim County. After finding a parked car near a known salmon fishing location, CO Albert located two subjects down by the river. A male subject was shooting arrows from a compound bow to take the spawning salmon and his female companion was in possession of a spear along the trout stream. The subjects were ticketed for the possession and use of the illegal equipment on a trout stream and for fishing without a license.
While CO Adam LeClerc was on patrol during the second elk hunt period in Cheboygan County, he was flagged down by a concerned citizen about a drunk driver on the road. CO LeClerc found the vehicle and operator in question and initiated a traffic stop. After failing a series of SFSTs, CO LeClerc placed the driver under arrest for OWI. The subject was lodged in the Cheboygan County Jail.
CO Jack Gorno contacted an ORV operating on a state highway in Cheboygan County. Upon contact, CO Gorno noticed several signs of intoxication from the operator. Both the operator and passenger had open intoxicants and admitted to drinking. After questioning the subject, CO Gorno performed SFSTs on the subject. CO Gorno arrested the subject for OWI and lodged them at the Cheboygan County Jail. A case report has been submitted to the Cheboygan County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
CO Jack Gorno received a complaint about a Cheboygan County resident possessing a lemur, an endangered species protected under the Federal Endangered Species List. CO Gorno investigated the complaint and developed enough probable cause for a search warrant. CO Gorno, Sgt. Mark DePew, and the Cheboygan County Animal Control executed a search warrant at the residence and removed the lemur. The officers safely removed the lemur and transported it to an accredited facility. A case report has been submitted to Cheboygan County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
CO Matt Theunick presented important information to around 50 students during a recent hunter's safety class held in Indian River. He covered a variety of laws and regulations related to hunting and took the time to answer any questions the attendees had.
CO Tom Oberg was working the early elk hunt in Cheboygan County when he responded to check and seal two elk that were harvested by hunters. When CO Oberg was checking the attached kill-tag on one of the elk, CO Oberg asked the hunter if he had his elk license. The hunter became confused. CO Oberg explained the license that was attached to the elk was his spring turkey license. The hunter was very apologetic and stated he made a mistake due to his excitement with his harvest and failing to take the time to look carefully at his licenses in the dark. Everyone had a good laugh and the friends that were with him gave him a hard time. The elk was then properly tagged with the elk kill-tag and the hunter was left with a warning for the elk being improperly tagged initially.
Sgt. Mark DePew noticed a motorcycle approaching his location while patrolling on M 32 just east of Gaylord. From a distance, he observed that the motorcycle appeared to be traveling above the posted speed limit of 55 mph. Upon activating his in-car radar unit, Sgt. DePew confirmed that the motorcycle was traveling at 122 mph. He initiated a traffic stop and spoke with the operator, who apologized and explained that he was in a rush. Sgt. DePew issued a ticket for careless driving.
CO Dan Liestenfeltz was patrolling Montmorency County when he observed a truck traveling in his direction. The truck then abruptly turned down a 50-inch restricted ORV trail. CO Liestenfeltz also observed the front passenger of the vehicle not wearing a seatbelt. CO Liestenfeltz activated his emergency lights and attempted to stop the vehicle. The vehicle did not immediately stop and continued traveling down the trail for approximately 15 seconds before stopping. CO Liestenfeltz contacted the occupants of the vehicle, and it was determined that it was a group of hunters. The front passenger of the vehicle had a rifle sitting in an open soft case next to his legs. The subject was also holding a single bullet and the gun safety was off which was required to open the bolt of the gun. CO Liestenfeltz issued the subject a ticket for transporting an uncased gun in a motor vehicle.
CO Dan Liestenfeltz received a complaint of a truck blocking a road accessing a very large area of state land in Montmorency County. CO Liestenfeltz responded to the area and determined that a hunter had intentionally parked their truck to block the road to prevent other hunters from entering the area. CO Liestenfeltz issued the owner of the vehicle a ticket for the violation.
CO Amanda Weaver, along with numerous other COs from surrounding areas, worked fall fish runs on the Betsie and Platte Rivers. They contacted hundreds of anglers and numerous arrests have been made for violations such as retaining foul hooked fish, gear violations, tending fires where prohibited, and other illegal activity.
While patrolling the Indian Bridge area of Mason County, CO Kyle Publiski was flagged down by a subject stating his buddy was “buried in the mud” and unable to get out. CO Publiski waded down the Pere Marquette River and located the stuck individual about 12 feet off the edge of the river and buried in mud almost up to his chest. CO Publiski worked on getting the subject out of the mud for 20 minutes using a rope and logs. With the subject getting exhausted and still unable to free him, CO Publiski had central dispatch send more resources. The Mason County Sheriff’s Office was able to put a patrol boat on the Pere Marquette River and with help from the Custer Fire Department, made it to the scene. Using a strap placed underneath the subject’s arms and around his back, CO Publiski, the deputy sheriff, and fire personnel were able to pull the subject from the mud. The subject was cold and tired but uninjured. He was transported back to the access site by boat.
COs Ben Shively, Kevin Bunce, Tim Barboza, and Corporal (Cpl.) Jon Busken were on patrol at the annual event called “Hot Boat Weekend” near the Hardy Dam in Newaygo County when they observed a subject on a jet ski operating within 10 feet of anchored vessels at a high rate of speed and using the anchored vessels as a slalom course. A stop was conducted on the subject who was also improperly wearing a personal floatation device (PFD). The subject fell off the jet ski upon coming to a stop and displayed glassy eyes, slurred speech, and a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his person. After failing SFSTs, the subject was administered a PBT test which resulted in a .186, over twice the legal limit of .08. The subject was arrested for boating under the influence of alcohol and operating within 100 feet of an anchored vessel.
CO Ben Shively and Oceana County Sheriff’s Office marine deputies responded to a medical emergency in Lake Michigan off the Silver Lake State Park ORV Area. The lone subject on a sailboat was attempting to raise his sails when he fell and injured his back. They were able to locate the sailboat and load the subject onto the patrol boat and transport him to Pentwater where he was transferred to EMS to be taken to the hospital. The officers returned to the sailboat and after an hour and a half tow, were able to get the sailboat to Pentwater where it was secured for the subject.
COs Breanna Reed and Jeremy Cantrell received a court disposition on a recent case in Missaukee County. Two hen turkeys and a white-tailed deer were killed during the closed hunting seasons. The hunter was found guilty and was ordered to pay $3,000 for reimbursement along with court costs.
COs Charlie Jones and Jacob Hamilton were on patrol in Excelsior Township, Kalkaska County when they received a call about a landowner possibly burning illegal materials in a very large pit. On arrival, the COs observed a very large fire contained in a sand pit. The property owner was in the process of tearing down an old barn and burning the building materials. More than 15 tires and other construction/hazardous materials were on fire resulting in large plumes of black smoke. The local fire department responded to suppress the fire. A citation was issued for unlawful disposal of solid waste.
COs Matt Zultak and James Garrett located a baited bear station that was actively attracting bears prior to the legal bear baiting time in Roscommon County. Later in the season, COs Zultak and Ben McAteer contacted a group of hound hunters actively tending the early established bait station. The COs also observed bait not placed directly on the ground and corn accessible to deer. Upon further investigation, one of the hound hunters had a valid felony warrant. The hunters were issued citations for tending a bear bait which was established 31 days before the bear season. The hunter with the felony warrant was arrested and lodged at the Roscommon County Jail.
Area 3 COs conducted a hunter safety field day for the Amish in Clare County. 32 young hunters were certified.
While leaving a complaint, CO Jacob Daniel noticed an ORV drive by on the roadway. Once in his truck, CO Daniel pulled onto the road to follow the ORV which was operating on the wrong side of the road. CO Daniel conducted a stop and discovered the operator was 12 years old. The 12-year-old was operating without adult supervision, ORV safety certificate, or an ORV license. The parents were contacted and issued a citation.
CO Adam Schiller and Sgt. Chad Foerster assisted the Gratiot County Sheriff’s Office, local fire department, and EMS with two lost hunters in a local state game area who were lost for several hours. The son of the older couple was able to make his way out and took a screen shot of his parents’ last known location prior to leaving to get help, but there was no cell service in the area. With the information at hand and with the help of Station 20 using the DNR mapping tools, they were able to get the COs a pin of the possible location. Shortly thereafter, the two hunters were located by local fire officers in the location given by Station 20. Both were a little wet due to the terrain of the game area but were doing well.
CO James Nason and Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Detective Dan Lee provided security for staff while water samples and levels were taken in the Richland/Gull Lake area. The security detail was necessary due to an incident that had occurred earlier this year. In the same area, staff were taking water samples when a local resident followed the EGLE personnel and pulled a gun on them. Charges have been submitted by the Ross Township Police Department to the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office on that incident.
CO Carter Woodwyk was patrolling Allegan County for waterfowl hunting activity when he located a group of three individuals hunting Crooked Lake. The CO checked the hunters and found one to be hunting and in possession of an unsigned federal migratory bird hunting stamp and a second subject having a firearm capable of holding more than three shells as well as hunting without a federal migratory bird hunting stamp. This subject was adamant he had purchased one indicating it was at his residence. When the CO went to the subject’s residence, no one was able to locate the stamp. Enforcement action was taken.
COs Jeremy Beavers and Mark Reffitt patrolled the Grand River by boat between the Webber and Portland Dams. During their patrol, the COs checked anglers on the water plus several watercraft. Near the end of their patrol, CO Beavers spotted a bait station near a deer blind along the shore. After CO Reffitt stopped the boat, both COs observed the area with binoculars and determined it was in fact bait. As the COs were doing this, a truck approached the site. CO Beavers watched as two individuals exited the truck and the driver retrieved a bucket from the back that appeared to be filled with apples. The driver then emptied the bucket and began walking back to the truck. At that time, CO Beavers contacted the individuals. CO Beavers asked the driver if he was baiting deer with the apples to which he replied he was. CO Beavers asked why he was baiting, since they were standing at the edge of a flourishing food plot. The driver did not give much of an excuse, other than the apples were from a tree in his yard and he was trying to get rid of them. CO Beavers inspected the area and found several other baited locations. CO Beavers learned that multiple people hunt that location, and the driver was not responsible for those baited areas. The passenger of the truck denied baiting and stated he did not hunt at that location. The driver was cited for baiting and the investigation is ongoing regarding the additional bait found at the location.
COs Nick Thornton and Olivia Moeller investigated an illegal burn of plastics, pressurized canisters, and various household items in Branch County at the request of the local fire department. The suspect fled the area prior to the arrival of the fire department and the COs as numerous similar complaints had recently been filed at the same location. The COs will be requesting criminal charges through the prosecutor’s office for the illegal burn.
CO Joshua Salas attended the Woods and Water show in Lapeer County. CO Salas worked the Hunter Education trailer where a virtual hunting simulator was set up. The CO showed kids, who wished to participate, basic firearm safety rules and allowed them the opportunity to practice those skills on the simulator.
CO Sydney Griffor was patrolling the Port Huron State Game Area (SGA) for small game hunting activity on opening day of small game season. St. Clair County Central Dispatch advised a hunter had called 911 stating he was hunting the Port Huron SGA and was lost. CO Griffor was only a few miles away and responded to the location and found the hunter’s vehicle. CO Griffor called the hunter’s cell phone and attempted to walk him through how to send his location to her phone. The hunter was having a hard time understanding how to work his cell phone, so CO Griffor sent him a pin location of the parking lot. The hunter continued to struggle with that. CO Griffor walked the state game area while keeping in contact with the hunter via telephone. Eventually, the hunter stated he found an open field and CO Griffor had a good idea where he was at, then advised him to stay put until she located him. The hunter was located and beyond happy to see CO Griffor but did not have any success hunting.
CO Joseph Deppen was checking state land for waterfowl hunters when he noticed a hunter shooting at geese that were way out of range. As the hunter went to clean up his decoys, CO Deppen walked up and started checking the hunter. The hunter had no waterfowl, but scattered in the water were multiple shot shells of low brass ammunition. A check of the hunter’s ammunition bag showed two boxes of target load size 6. The hunter was issued a citation for use/possess lead shot to hunt waterfowl and was given verbal warnings for hunting with a firearm capable of holding more than three shells and unsigned federal duck stamp.
CO Nicholas Ingersoll and Probationary Conservation Officer (PCO) Elliot Worel were checking for ORV activity at Pointe Aux Peaux State Wildlife Area (SWA) when they noticed three pickup trucks parked next to the levies. The COs then heard multiple duck calls coming from the marsh area. The COs observed three men in the marsh with decoys. The COs observed all three hunters attempting to take Canada geese well after legal shooting hours. All individuals were cited for violating legal waterfowl shooting hours.
CO Eric Smither and Sgt. Shane Webster participated in the Pheasants Forevers Youth Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area, which had approximately 550 individuals attend throughout the day. CO Smither and Sgt Webster answered questions about hunting, fishing, ORVs, and boating as well as spoke to many kids about what conservation officers do.
ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATIONS SECTION (EIS)
Detective James Zellinger reports on September 15, 2023, a 62-year-old Lenawee County man was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, per a plea agreement, to a felony count of forgery after serving probation with an electronic tether during an eleven-month deferred sentencing. The remaining charges in the case are now dismissed. The subject was originally charged with 12 felony forgery counts and 1 misdemeanor count for numerous violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The subject pled guilty to 1 felony forgery count on October 31, 2022, as part of a plea agreement in which all other charges were dismissed. The subject paid $258 after the original guilty plea and $90 per month for the electronic tether and supervision.
This subject was the operator-in-charge of a community water supply while the violations were committed. The subject submitted required monthly operating reports to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) which documented how much disinfectant (chlorine) was being applied to the water supply daily. It was discovered the subject had not purchased chlorine gas for the community since 2015, monthly operating reports were found at the facility with white out over the month and date and new month and dates written over the white out, and exact duplicate copies of monthly operating reports were found to be submitted to EGLE for multiple months across several years. The subject reported to EGLE the collection and testing of monthly bacteriological samples from three locations at city facilities. Staff for the community had never observed the subject collect any water samples for testing in several years. The subject also applied a heavy dose of chlorine to the distribution system the day before an inspection which resulted in dangerous chlorine residual levels for human contact in parts of the distribution system. Several maintenance violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act were also committed, such as, one of the two well meters not functioning, water filters not being properly backwashed, a lift station not being secure from public access, mold growing on the floor of the water treatment plant facility, and not being able to locate or know how to operate chlorine residual test kit or iron and hardness test kit and only having expired reagents.
GREAT LAKES ENFORCEMENT UNIT (GLEU)
Great Lakes Enforcement Unit (GLEU) officers paired with MSP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division (CVED) officers for three planned aquatic invasive species (AIS) patrols on September 6th, 11th, and 12th, in Menominee County, Mackinac County, and Chippewa County. A total of seven GLEU officers and six CVED officers participated in the patrol. Areas worked during the patrols included the intersection of US41/US2, the International Bridge, and the Mackinac Bridge. Several stops and numerous contacts were made.
GLEU conservation officers took part in a mock AIS exercise regarding the illegal importation of a mass quantity of prohibited live zander. Problems in a potential response were identified and protocols for investigations were discussed.
Corporals (Cpls.) Craig Milkowski and Todd Sumbera assisted with “Operation Safe Harbor” in the Straits of Mackinac around Mackinac Island. The COs helped secure a safety zone for the exercise, which involved Michigan National Guard elements constructing a temporary pier for a mass evacuation of the island. The operation was a multijurisdictional effort which included military personnel, MSP, United State Coast Guard (USCG), Border Patrol, and local counties.
Cpl. Tom Peterson assisted Cleveland University with water sampling and testing out of the Ontonagon, Traverse, and Sturgeon River Systems in Lake Superior. The University was analyzing water samples for carbon, algae, and zooplankton to gain a measurement on base food chain, as well as contaminants and invasive species.
Cpl. Brett DeLonge responded to an out of control 13-year-old at a foster care facility in Marquette. Cpl. DeLonge and another responding officer contacted the boy, ensured there were no injuries, and de-escalated the situation. The boy was later escorted from the facility so he could be safe to himself and others for the remainder of the night.
Cpl. Mike Hammill received a complaint of someone shooting off a gun near a bear hunter to interfere with the hunt. Cpl. Hammill responded to the area, shut his patrol vehicle off and could hear a vehicle heading in his direction shooting what sounded like a .22 rifle. Cpl. Hammill stopped the vehicle. The occupant of the vehicle claimed he wasn’t shooting anything and consented to a search of his vehicle. After a search of the vehicle, Cpl. Hammill concluded that the occupant was lighting off fireworks in attempts to spook a trophy bear in the area.