California Hunters Help Stop Poachers

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Hunting season is in full swing, and the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) continues to thwart poachers thanks to hunters throughout northern California.

"Poachers need to know that we may not see you, but someone else will," said Nancy Foley, chief of DFG's Enforcement Division. "Hunters continue to provide us with many leads either reporting directly to a Warden or through CalTIP."

In the past several weeks, northern California wardens have been busy making arrests and pursuing several criminal cases. The CalTIP program provides a 24-hour toll free number people can call to report poaching and polluting incidents. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for rewards. The number is 1-888-DFG-CalTIP (1-888-334-2258). Dispatchers turn the reports over to the Game Wardens.

In Sierra, Plumas and Nevada counties alone, seven bears were illegally killed over six days. Five of the poached bears were reported by hunters, and two by landowners.

"The most outrageous of the poaching cases involves a female bear whose two young cubs were killed and left behind," said Warden Jerry Karnow who is working several of the cases. "Without hunters in the field, we would lose that 'watchdog' element of wildlife protection."

The two cubs were found in Plumas County, and evidence indicates that they were treed at the time they were shot. Wardens currently have a suspect in the case, and are waiting for DNA and ballistic evidence before submitting the case to the District Attorney's Office.

Calaveras County Game Wardens arrested 12 individuals over three nights for spotlighting in the same location. All of the poaching occurred on weekends.

"We tend to focus on weekends when most hunters are out, but we had reports of poachers in the vineyards," said Lt. Eric Vielhaur. "Statistics say we have less hunters, but we are not seeing a slow down in the field. Unfortunately, we aren't seeing a slow down with the criminal element either."

In one of the Calaveras cases, Warden John Winings had stopped to check on a stopped vehicle. As the individual jumped out of the vehicle and popped the hood, Winings saw a rifle in the backseat. He confronted the individual who admitted to having taken a deer and that a friend was waiting for him to come pick it up.

Reports of illegal activity help DFG target areas for special details. Modoc County Warden Jake Bushey, Jr. led such a detail during a weekend with a deer decoy that netted a poacher each night as suspects stopped their vehicles and tookshots from the road at a robotic deer.

"We have gotten one vehicle each night we have had this decoy out in the same spot over the last six years," said Bushey. One suspect shot at the decoy twice from one rifle, and then secured a second rifle and shot again.

"The decoy works on people who are predisposed to poach deer," said Bushey. "The look on a poacher's face when we come out in a Fish and Game rig after they have been shooting illegally is priceless. They know they have finally been caught."

The declining number of Game Wardens has made protecting California's wildlife difficult, said Foley. "Hunters and land owners provide a tremendous service to DFG Wardens when they report illegal poaching, polluting and habitat destruction," she said.

"Without people reporting to us and giving us information, we couldn’t do our jobs as effectively," said Bushey.