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WDFW names new enforcement chief

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday announced that Steve Crown, a lieutenant in the (WDFW) Enforcement Program, had been promoted today to serve as the agency's Chief of enforcement.

The selection process has been kept low-key for months.

Crown is replacing Bruce Bjork, who is retiring after 43 years of state service, including 15 as the leader of the WDFW Enforcement Program.

Crown graduated from the University of Idaho and spent 11 years with the Wenatchee Police Department before joining WDFW in 2002. He was selected after a national recruitment and interview process and transitioned into his new role by working alongside Chief Bjork for the past month.

When I requested information about the selection on June 24, Mike Cenci, program deputy chief, responded:

"It is a public process………will provide info today."

Not hearing back, I contacted Cenci again on July 22 after finding nothing online regarding the national search for a new chief.  Here's his reply:

Sorry Rich. I can't find a posting. I know that the agency solicited the Washington Assoc. of Sheriff's and Police Chiefs to conduct a nationwide search. They are down to a finalist, who will face a forum of labor and other agency personnel for a Q&A session. The appointment will occur depending on that outcome. If your interested in the minimum qualifications, I will dig.

I responded with a query for more information regarding the Q&A session Cenci mentioned and names of finalists, and got his final response:

I am not authorized to provide any detail yet, Rich. 

Here's the rest of the info from the WDFW media release issued Friday at 4 p.m. as most people were turning their attention to a holiday weekend:

"Steve brings a well-rounded law enforcement background to his new position, as well as a passion for the state's natural resources," said WDFW Director Phil Anderson.  "The Enforcement Program plays a key role in helping the department achieve our mission and meet our legal responsibilities. I am confident Steve will maintain and enhance the consistent and professional approach that has been a hallmark of Chief Bjork's tenure."

"Bruce Bjork is one of this state's most highly respected law enforcement leaders," said Crown. "I am honored and excited to lead the Enforcement Program and to build upon his accomplishments."

Under Bjork's leadership, WDFW made significant investments in cutting-edge law enforcement technology that increased officers' efficiency and improved their ability to apprehend violators. He also helped establish the department as a general authority police agency and was instrumental in the passage of legislation that increased penalties for egregious violations such as spree killing and poaching trophy-class big-game animals.  

Wildlife officers played key role in Dorner case

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Equipped with four-wheel drive vehicles and their knowledge of the woods in rugged terrain, California Fish and Wildlife police were key to cornering Christopher Dorner, the state's most-wanted killer Tuesday.

Wildlife enforcement officers routinely deal with a well-armed clientelle. But this case involved a wild shootout.

Read the story from the LA Times.

State racks up funds with antler auction

POACHING – An online auction of confiscated big-game antlers that concluded last week netted the state $21,300 earmarked for anti-poaching enforcement.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department sold 1,725 pounds of moose, elk and deer antlers that had been seized from poachers.

Money from the auction will be used to for forensic work and to pay rewards to people who report poaching violatons, officials said.

Online auctions are popular and the warehouse is open five days a week.

Hours, pay not worth the stress, many Montana game wardens say

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — There's nothing lucrative about the life of a Montana game warden, and that's only part of the reason there are job openings.

In the past five years, 24 game wardens in Montana — about a third of the force — have left their jobs, and most said the long hours, relatively low pay and the inability to get away from the job for just a couple of days all played a role in their decision to leave.

See the story by the Helena Independent Record.

Loose dogs killing livestock in Stevens County

PREDATORS — Stevens County officials have ranted about wolves and endorsed a coyote hunting contest, but free-running dogs are making the headlines for destruction to livestock and pets.

According to the Association Press, after the latest attack by a pack of wild dogs killed a 350-pound llama at Deer Park, the Stevens County sheriff's office is warning residents in the southern part of the county to protect their animals and families.

Deputy Keith Cochran told KXLY they are concerned because the dogs are cruel and bloodthirsty and killing for fun.

Since the end of March, there have been at least 15 attacks that have killed more than 100 animals. Dogs killed a number of goats last week and the llama on Tuesday night.

One resident, Temma Davis, says neighbors are worried about kids getting off school buses or riding their bikes.

The animal attacks have happened at night, but people say they are starting to see dogs in the early morning.

Another busy week for Wildlife cops

WILDLIFE COPS — In addition to clamping down on people who disregard wildlife habitat (see previous post) Washington Fish and Wildlife police kept busy last week with a wide range of duties, not the least of which was conducting a hot-spot elk hunt to curb crop damage near Almota, making presentations to hunter education classes and checking anglers throughout the region.

Once officer responded to monitor elk in Spokane Valley and the wild turkeys still plaguing some homeownes on the South Hill.

At least two citations were writen to snowmobilers during a northeastern Washington patrol of the Calispel peak area focusing on Big Game Winter Range closure areas. The officers also joined with Forest Service cops to rescue and transport  three ill-equipped snowmobilers who'd broke down a long way from the road.

When these officers write their book about the crazy cases they check out, they'll have to include last week's call from a person in southeastern Washington who believed a neighbor had placed a toxic black substance in the roadway in an attempt to poison him. 

The officer checked it out, since it could have been a habitat protection violation. 

Turns out the "black substance" was put down by a man who works at a construction company. It was sandblasting sand he'd placed in the roadway to prevent a washout until a permanent fix could be made.

Sandblasting sand is not toxic.  

Cutting tree for bridge over Tucannon River is costly mistake

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – If a tree falls in the forest and a Fish and Wildlife policeman is around, it will be heard – and investigated.

While patrolling the Tucannon Lakes and Wooten Wildlife Area in the Blue Mountains last week, a Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officer stopped to check the vehicles of two people he’d seen previously hunting shed antlers.

 Meantime, he heard a chainsaw running down along the Tucannon River, according to the weekly report of enforcement activity in far Eastern Washington.  Moments later a large tree was heard to hit the ground.

The officer hiked into the area, found the two shed hunters and determined that one of them had sawed down a 50-foot tall live cottonwood tree measuring 30 inches at the stump.

The man had dropped the tree into the river to make a bridge for his partner to cross.

Aside from being stupid, senseless and selfish, this also is illegal.

The Tucannon River is a habitat protection area to protect, among other things, the trees and vegetation that shield the river from sun to keep the water cooler for young bull trout and steelhead.

The officer gave the information to the Columbia County prosecutor, where we’re looking forward to seeing a case move through the courts on charges felony malicious mischief and an HPA violation.

Fish and Wildlife cops have another busy week

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT  – Snowmobilers and ATVers who are not good at reading signs continue to exercise the ticket-writing hands of Washington Fish and Wildlife police officers.

Three wildlife officers joined with a Colville National Forest officer last week to follow up on a tip that snowmobilers were in the Buck Creek Road area of Pend Oreille County, which is closed by a federal endangered species protection order to protect caribou habitat.

“Officers contacted eight subjects attempting to leave the closure by manhandling their snowmobiles over a large rock and around a gate,” according to the weekly report filed by  Capt. Mike Whorton in Spokane.

The snowmobilers had gone “by the posted sign and thought that the closure did not apply to them,” Whorton noted. “Although cooperative, all eight snowmobiles were cited for being in the closure area.”

Similarly, an ATVer was caught and cited on the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area where it's closed to motor vehicle use this time of year to protect wintering elk, but not before he’d driven through seeded crop land and right past posted signs.

Two Fish and Wildlife police patrolled the Mount Spokane area by snowmobile and cited four sledders for registration violations.

Read on for highlights of the many other wildlife police encounters last week.

Another busy week for Spokane Region wildlife cops

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – The usual suspects and activities kept Washington Fish and Wildlife officers plenty busy, according to the latest weekly report.  But before getting to the criminal activity, its worth noting that the officers occasionally have to laugh at themselves.

Several flocks of turkeys that are over-flourishing on the South Hill have been causeing neighbors a lot of grief, and officers a lot of headaches.

One officer, two biologists and several volunteers attempted to use a net gun to capture a flock frequenting one neighborhood. What did they learn?

“The turkeys could out-run the net gun even at 15 feet!” the report said.

Read on for a mere sampling of last week’s enforcement activity highlights in this region.

Spokane Region wildlife cops working on shocking angle

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – Electrifying news comes today from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department:  Some wildlife enforcement officers are doing the preliminary work required to be able to equip themselves with Tasers.

Stay tuned, and  well-grounded.

Prolific poacher gets five months in jail

WILDLIFE ABUSE — The sentence: Just five months in jail for the man investigators say call the most prolific wildlife spree killer in Washington state history.

Cody Stearns of Western Washington was caught in an interview by KIRO TV as he left the courthouse last week after being convicted on five counts of poaching. Fish and Wildlife officers said they believe the man has killed more than a hundred animals and that the actual total could be much higher.

Even though he denied killing ANY animals, the KIRO website also includes a slideshow with graphic scenes sampling the evidence that piled up against Stearns.

Wintering deer harassed by dogs

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Fish and Wildlife Deparment agents in the Spokane Region spent an unusually large amount of time last week responding to complaints about free-roaming dogs harassing deer.

At least five incidents showed up on the department's weekly report on enforcement officer activity. The cases were reported in Stevens, Lincoln and Spokane Counties.
In one Lincoln County case, loose-running dogs mauled a mule deer in the Mill Canyon area near Lake Roosevelt. The responding officer found the seriously wounded deer floundering in deep snow.  He dispatched the deer to put it out of its misery. Then he issued citations to the owner of the dogs.
Allowing dogs to harass wildlife is against the law.

Wildlife officers keep eye on cougar hunters, snowmobilers

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers kept busy with the usual wide range of efforts last week, but they gave special attention to the opening of the cougar hound-hunting season in northeast Washington and they wrote tickets for snowmobiling violations ranging from missing registrations and Sno-Park permits to riding in prohibited areas.

They made 29 stops at Mount Spokane to help educate snowmobilers about the changes in where snowmobiling is allowed this year. Three citations were issued.

Read on to see a few other highlights that caught my eye from the weekly wildlife enforcement report for this region:

Some poachers can’t be overlooked

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT – While patrolling the Horseshoe Lake area, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department Officer Paul Mosman had one of those rare “game warden moments.”

“It started when he pulled in behind a likely looking truck parked at an access gate and just happened to notice a man nearby quickly toss a turkey carcass into the wood line before walking down to greet the officer,” reported Capt. Mike Whorton in Spokane. “Officer Mosman utilized his years of training and experience to deduce that this might be a clue to follow up on.

“After a few minutes of license checks and discussion about archery deer hunting, Officer Mosman made his way up to the turkey and found not one but four steaming hot turkeys in various stages of field dressing.  One of the men ultimately confessed to shooting all four.

“His excuse was that he only meant to poach one (and then go into town to buy a turkey tag) and had been surprised when four birds started flopping around after he shot.”

He was cited on several counts and his shotgun was seized for forfeiture.

Read on for other highlights from last weeks wildlife enforcement patrols.