Louisiana Operation Game Thief, Inc. (LOGT), a Louisiana wildlife crime-stoppers program, awarded $5,200 to diligent citizens statewide at their quarterly meeting on May 18 in Woodworth.
Louisiana Department Wildlife Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement LOGT Coordinator Lt. Will Roberts provided LOGT members with information on the 11 cases and a recommendation for reward amounts.
“We depend on Operation Game Thief and these public tips to help break a lot of cases that might have otherwise gone unsolved,” Roberts said.
The cases reviewed and awarded money to the public for their assistance consisted mostly of turkey, deer and alligator cases.
Anyone wishing to report wildlife or fisheries violations should anonymously call LDWF’s 24-hour toll free Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-442-2511 or utilize LDWF's new tip411 program. To use the tip411 program, tipsters can text LADWF and their tip to 847411 or download the "LADWF Tips" iPhone and Android apps from the iTunes or Google Play store free of charge. Texting or downloading the app enables the public to send anonymous tips to LDWF and lets LDWF respond back, creating a two-way anonymous “chat”.
Users of the app or texters can also send in photos to help support their claim and be used as evidence. CitizenObserver, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before LDWF receives the text so that LDWF cannot identify the sender.
LOGT was instituted in 1984 and provides cash rewards for information leading to the arrest of violators of fish and wildlife regulations. Funds are raised through private donations, court directed contributions and through contributions from cooperative endeavor agreements with organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and Quality Deer Management Association.
To make a donation to the LOGT that can be used for cash rewards, please contact Lt. Will Roberts at email@example.com.
LOGT meets quarterly throughout the year to review cases and dispense rewards.
The Office of the General Counsel Enforcement Section within the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a civil monetary penalty in the amount of $62,500 to a Gretna fishing boat captain on May 14.
The civil monetary penalty stems from a joint investigation between the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and NOAA that resulted in Nam Nguyen, 52, captain of The Blue Fin, receiving citations for allegedly violating highly migratory species (HMS) regulations.
Nguyen and The Blue Fin were jointly charged to pay the $62,500 penalty for using pelagic longline gear for Atlantic HMS in federal waters with live bait and for possessing “J” hooks while possessing an HMS permit.
Agents received a complaint from NOAA Fisheries that the USCG discovered The Blue Fin fishing in federal waters with live bait while also using pelagic longline gear on March 18. LDWF agents boarded the vessel when it returned to Dulac on March 19 and found J-hooks, pelagic longline gear and three places to hold live bait.
It is illegal to fish for HMS in the Gulf of Mexico with live bait and J-hooks when using pelagic longline gear. Circle hooks and either artificial lures or dead bait can be used with a highly migratory species permit when using pelagic longline gear.
Agents seized 2,861 pounds of yellowfin tuna and a total of 623 pounds of swordfish, wahoo and escolar, pelagic longline gear and two buoys.
LDWF Agents participating in the case are Sgt. Louis Burnett, Senior Agents Dean Aucoin and Norman Deroche and Sgt. Ted Dewitt. NOAA Fisheries Special Agent Steve Campbell and USCG Ensign Zack Bowman also assisted in the case.
May 21, 2012 -- The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) dedicated a statue today, May 21, in Baton Rouge to honor those Enforcement Division agents who have died in the line of duty.
The statue depicts an LDWF Enforcement Division agent in an honor guard uniform with his head bowed honoring fallen agents. The statue sits on top of a granite pedestal that is engraved with the names of the seven LDWF agents that have been killed in the line of duty.
“Enforcement agents have a very dangerous job since they are often in remote areas by themselves without backup and sometimes at night. The training the agents receive alleviates a lot of the dangers that the job brings, but there are still a lot of instances where agents put themselves in harm’s way,” said Col. Winton Vidrine, head of the LDWF Enforcement Division. “This statue will memorialize those agents that lost their lives while upholding rules and regulations that protect Louisiana’s natural resources.”
The Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association (LWAA) purchased and donated the statue to LDWF where it will permanently stand at their headquarters building.
The following are the agents who are engraved on the pedestal and honored by the statue:
Sgt. Paul Stuckey, 47, was shot and killed when his shotgun accidentally discharged on Sept. 30, 2011. Sgt. Stuckey was responding to reports of night hunting in West Feliciana Parish at the time of the accidental discharge. Sgt. Stuckey was an 18 year veteran and is survived by his wife and three children.
Agent Jim Matkin, 30, was killed in an automobile accident while on-duty in Concordia Parish on March 2, 2005. Agent Matkin was a six year veteran and was survived by his parents, two sisters and a step-son.
Capt. John Garlington, 53, drowned while investigating a report of illegal gill net fishing on the Mill Creek Reservoir in Bienville Parish on Feb. 10, 2000. Capt. Garlington was responding to the report at approximately 3 a.m. Capt. Garlington was a 14 year veteran.
Agent Leon Henderson, 36, was killed in an accident while en route to a reported drowning in Morehouse Parish. Agent Henderson was transported to a local hospital where he died two weeks later on March 30, 1996. Agent Henderson was a 15 year veteran and was survived by his wife and daughter.
Agent Ricky Dodge, 37, was killed when his all-terrain vehicle flipped over as he was responding to a call about a game violation on Jan. 21, 1992 in Avoyelles Parish. Agent Dodge was survived by his wife, son and daughter.
Agent Kenneth Aycock, 35, drowned while on duty on July 6, 1991 in Morehouse Parish. Agent Aycock was survived by his wife and two sons.
Agent Frank Fagot, 31, was shot and killed by a poacher he was attempting to arrest on Nov. 29, 1927. Agent Fagot was survived by his wife and two children.
LDWF dates back to 1912 when it was constitutionally created as the Conservation Commission of Louisiana as a department of state government, making the Law Enforcement Division 101 years old.
LDWF and LWAA will hold a ceremony in the fall to honor those whom gave the ultimate sacrifice while performing their duties as LDWF enforcement agents.
May 17, 2013 -- Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials are looking for leads regarding a whooping crane that was found shot to death in Red River Parish.
The whooping crane was found and recovered from the bank of the Red River about two miles northwest of Loggy Bayou on April 16. After a necropsy of the crane, it was determined that the bird was shot with a 6.5mm/.264 caliber projectile.
Investigators believe the bird was shot between April 10 and 14. The whooping crane was a part of LDWF's whooping crane reintroduction program and was fitted with a GPS tracking device. The last tracking point of the crane moving was on April 10 near where she was eventually found dead on April 16. The last tracking point received was on April 14 at the location she was found.
This whooping crane was released in Louisiana on March 14, 2011.
LDWF’s Operation Game Thief program, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and the USFWS are each offering up to $1,000 in rewards for a total of up to $3,000 in rewards for any information about this illegal shooting that leads to an arrest. To report any information regarding this whooping crane shooting, please call 1-800-442-2511.
“Anytime we lose one of these cranes it sets us back in our efforts to restore the whooping crane population back to its historic levels in Louisiana,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “These were once native birds to Louisiana and the department would like to see these cranes thrive again in the future with a sustainable population.”
USFWS Office of Law Enforcement for the Southeast Region Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago said, "The shooting of this whooping crane is an insult to all law abiding hunters. We ask the public to please share any information that will lead us to the shooter.”
LDWF has released 40 whooping cranes since 2011 and currently have 25 whooping cranes they are tracking. This is the third whooping crane that has been found shot with the previous two having been shot in Jefferson Davis Parish in October of 2011.
The re-introduced whooping cranes came from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and they were placed in the coastal marsh of Vermilion Parish within LDWF’s White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA). This re-introduced population marked the first presence of whooping cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950.
LDWF is working cooperatively with the USFWS, USGS, the International Crane Foundation and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to bring the species back to the state. This non-migratory flock of whooping cranes is designated as a non-essential, experimental population but is protected under state law, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Whooping cranes, the most endangered of all of the world’s crane species, were first added to the federal status of an endangered species on March 11, 1967.
Historically, both a resident and migratory population of whooping cranes were present in Louisiana through the early 1940s. Whooping cranes inhabited the marshes and ridges of the state’s southwest Chenier Coastal Plain, as well as the uplands of prairie terrace habitat to the north. Within this area, whooping cranes used three major habitats: tall grass prairie, freshwater marsh, and brackish/salt marsh. The Louisiana crane population was not able to withstand the pressure of human encroachment, primarily the conversion of nesting habitat to agricultural acreage, as well as hunting and specimen collection, which also occurred across North America. The last bird in southwest Louisiana was removed to a sanctuary in 1950.
The only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Multiple efforts are underway to bring this bird further along its path to recovery. This includes increasing populations in the wild, ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United States, and establishing a resident population in Louisiana.
There are about 600 whooping cranes left in the world with 421 of those cranes living in the wild.
May 16, 2013 -- Louisiana is once again participating in the national "Safe Boating Week" that is scheduled for May 18-24 and signifies the beginning of the spring and summer boating season.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) will again be reminding all boaters to be safe, responsible and knowledgeable while on the water during this safe boating week. Safe Boating Week is a time for all boaters to inspect their vessels to ensure that all required safety equipment is on board and that vessels are in good working condition.
LDWF Enforcement Division agents will be out in full force as always during the week to perform boating safety checks and driving or operating a vessel while intoxicated (DWI) patrols. Each vessel should have enough personal flotation devices (PFD) on board for all occupants and a sober operator.
"Personal flotation devices are made to be worn and not sit in a vessel storage compartment. Even if you consider yourself to be a strong swimmer, we (LDWF) still encourage everyone on a boat to wear a personal flotation device whenever the boat is in motion," said LDWF Boating Safety Officer Capt. Rachel Zechenelly. “A personal flotation device on a boat should be treated the same as a seatbelt in a car, because they are both easy to use and are proven to save lives."
LDWF boating incident statistics indicate that 15 out of the 25 boating fatalities in 2012 officially listed drowning as the cause of death. LDWF regulations state that anyone 16 years of age and younger must wear a PFD while underway in vessels less than 26 foot long. For more boating and PFD regulations, please visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating.
Alcohol use is another leading cause of boating crash incidents and fatalities on the water. Alcohol consumption impairs a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Alcohol also increases fatigue and susceptibility to hypothermia. Intensifying the effects of alcohol are sun, wind, noise, vibration and movement, which are all common to boating activities.
The penalties for DWI on the water are the same as on the road. Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver's license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road.
In Louisiana a DWI can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel or vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. First offense DWI on the water or on the road carries a $300 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Second offense DWI brings a $750 to $1,000 fine and between 30 days and six months in jail. Third offense DWI carries a $5,000 fine and between one and five years in jail. Again, every DWI offense is also subject to a suspension of driving a vehicle and operating a boat privileges.
"One of the best parts of our job is to see people utilize Louisiana's waterways for recreation in accordance to the boating safety regulations and return home safely to loved ones. However, the worst part of our job is to search for deceased bodies and notify family members of their loss," said LDWF Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, the State Boating Law Administrator. "The two ways to make boating safe, fun and a memorable experience is to have a sober operator and to have everyone wear a personal flotation device when the vessel is underway."
LDWF also wants to remind anybody born after Jan. 1, 1984 that they are required to successfully complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) boating education course to operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower. LDWF offers these classes free of charge statewide. For a list of courses, please visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating/courses.