Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers Bust Duck, Alligator Poachers In Brevard County
By Space Coast Daily // January 25, 2018
FWC report highlights some cases in Brevard County
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following report highlights some cases the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission handled in Brevard County over the past week but does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – FWC officers received numerous complaints about a large group of duck hunters on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The complaints were directed at one group of hunters.
The violations ranged from hunter harassment, over the bag limit, and multiple refuge violations. Some instances earlier in the season led to violent altercations with other hunters and this group.
Officers Eller and Hadwin and Lieutenant Bonds with FWC teamed up with U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers for a plain clothes joint enforcement detail to investigate these complaints.
Officers staged themselves in a popular hunting spot to see if this hunting group would use their intimidation tactics on them. As soon as the group entered the pond they went straight to the location of the officers and began trying to make them leave using verbal intimidation.
When their efforts failed they returned to their hunting location for the remainder of their hunt.
After their hunt, the officers conducted a resource inspection on the subjects in their duck blind and numerous violations were addressed that were observed prior to the hunt and during the hunt. All violations were addressed and the subjects were cited accordingly.
Officer Eller and Lieutenant Bonds were notified by a source about an alligator that was recently killed out of season. The source gave detailed information about the alligator.
The officers located the carcass to get DNA samples and a pair of hedge clippers that were used to cut the gator’s tail off. Once the evidence was collected, Officer West from Volusia County was asked to help with the investigation since the crime happened just over the Brevard County and Volusia line.
The officers regrouped and went to the suspect’s residence for an interview. During the interview, the suspect admitted to killing the alligator and provided officers with pictures of the animal from that day. Four packages of alligator meat and a rifle were seized as evidence. The suspect was cited accordingly.
Officers Rasey, Hadwin, Bohne and Matthews responded to a report of a group of men using a gill net in the Banana River, just south of Pineda Causeway.
Officers Rasey and Hadwin positioned themselves in locations where they could observe the group in the water using the net and photo/video their actions. Officers Matthews and Bohne set up surveillance on the suspects’ vehicles which had people inside serving as lookouts.
As the group in the water returned to their vehicles with their illegal catch, all four officers quickly moved in and conducted a resource inspection.
The four adult males who had been fishing were in possession of 2 monofilament gill nets, 8 undersized snook, 2 undersized red drum, 1 undersized sheepshead, 3 horseshoe crabs, and 2 coolers full of mullet.
All four individuals were arrested and charged with 2 felonies and 5 misdemeanors each. The 2 gill nets were seized and the horseshoe crabs were returned to the water alive.
Officer Mendelson received intelligence about poaching on a piece of private property on Merritt Island.
Officer Hadwin had previously observed two subjects launch a boat at that property with a feeder on board.
Officer Hadwin and Officer Bohne went to the property and located a large corn feeder with duck decoys floating around it, as well as several permanent duck blinds. Early Saturday morning, Officer Mendelson, Officer Hadwin and United States Fish & Wildlife Service Federal Officer Amoroso conducted concealed surveillance on the property.
They observed two individuals hunting ducks in a blind next to the corn feeder throughout the morning. The poachers were apprehended, interviewed and charged with hunting migratory birds over bait. The shotguns and ducks harvested during the illegal hunt were seized. The lease holders were issued federal criminal charges by USFWS Officer Amoroso for placing bait on the property to hunt.
Officers Eller and Hallsten received a tip about a private duck lease in the Scottsmoor area that was baiting close to their duck blinds. The two officers conducted an assessment of the property and located several blinds.
One of the blinds caught the officers’ interest and they waded into the hip deep impoundment to take a closer look. They searched in about two feet of water and located corn underneath the water.
The following morning Officers Hallsten and Lejarzar returned to the location and observed three subjects attempting to take ducks in the baited area.
A thorough inspection revealed a large amount of corn within 10 yards of the duck blind. Multiple hunting violations to include license and baiting violations were addressed with criminal citations. All the hunting gear related to the take of the ducks was seized.
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