Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Poachers’ latest ‘tool?’ Poison!

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. From the Associated Press:

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority says poachers have begun poisoning watering holes, killing nine elephants and at least five lions in recent weeks.
Spokeswoman Caroline Washaya-Moyo of Zimbabwe’s wildlife department says elephants’ ivory tusks were removed but lions’ heads and skins were left intact.
She says the lions appeared to be accidental victims of the poisoning. She told the Associated Press on Monday the new incidents were the first on record.
She says buffalo were also killed, as were vultures that preyed on the dead animals.
She says tests were being done to determine the nature of the chemicals that could kill creatures as large as elephants, which can eat hundreds of pounds (kilograms) of vegetation each day.

This guy gives hunting a bad name

Foiles

If there is justice in this world, Jeff Foiles will never hunt again.

He’s already given hunting a couple of big, shiny black eyes. He shouldn’t get the opportunity to further besmirch the reputation of an otherwise honorable pastime.

The latest black eye came Wednesday, when Foiles, an Illinois hunting guide who produces commercial waterfowl-hunting videos under the “Fallin’ Skies” brand, pleaded guilty to 10 counts, some cruelty-related, in an Edmonton, Canada, court. This Winnipeg Free Press story has the disgusting details of some of Foiles’ violations.

Earlier this summer, Foiles pleaded guilty on U.S. federal charges on illegal sales of wildlife and falsification of records. He faces up to 13 months in jail and a $100,000 fine on those charges. In addition, he admitted to a slew of other violations that included shooting more than the legal limit of ducks on at least 15 occasions. Details are here, in the Springfield Journal-Register.

No word on how long he might lose his hunting privileges. But if I were a judge and it were within my power, I’d ban this bad egg permanently.

A new tool in the fight against wildlife crime

In the never-ending war against poaching and other wildlife-related crimes, West Virginia’s law enforcement forces now have a new weapon — the Internet.

From the Associated Press:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The state Division of Natural Resources now has a way online for turning in poaching and other illegal wildlife activities.
Tips can be reported to the DNR’s law enforcement section’s website at www.wvdnr.gov.
Lt. Col. Jerry Jenkins says the DNR has a limited number of police officers in the field, so the public plays a vital role in protecting natural resources by reporting violations.
Witnesses to a potential violation are asked to collect as much information as possible without confronting the individual under suspicion. Jenkins says helpful information includes a description of the people involved and any vehicles and license plates, the type of violation and the time it occurred.
He says those who report such crimes will remain anonymous.

To expand some on AP’s brief treatment:

Lt. Col. Jenkins described the DNR’s network of field officers as “limited.” What he really meant was “paper-thin.”

By law, the Division of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Section can have no more than 120 officers. With retirements and attrition, the roster is seldom full. Also, consider that some of those officers are in administrative positions and never make it into the field. Realistically, the state has about 90 officers to cover 55 counties that encompass 24,181 square miles. That’s paper-thin.

Those officers need help. The new online reporting form is a tool that allows West Virginians who witness wildlife crimes to report them quickly and anonymously.

The AP piece listed the URL as the DNR’s general website address. The specific address is http://www.wvdnr.gov/LEnforce/Poachers.shtm

Use it, please.

Pennsylvania sues Consol for Dunkard fish kill

Muskies killed by the Dunkard algae bloom

In 2009, discharges from a Consol Energy mine triggered an algae bloom that wiped out almost all aquatic life in Monongalia County’s Dunkard Creek. West Virginia environmental officials responded; after months of deliberation, they issued what amounted to slap-on-the wrist penalties.

Unfortunately for Consol, the Dunkard Creek kill didn’t end at the Monongalia County line. The stream flowed onward into Pennsylvania, wiping out life on that side of the border, too. Now Pennsylvania fisheries officials are taking action, and they appear to be made of sterner stuff than their Mountain State counterparts. From the Associated Press:

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission on Wednesday sued the coal company Consol Energy Inc. for the deaths of thousands of fish and other animals along a 30-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The Greene County, Pa., lawsuit followed a similar complaint that the commission filed last week in Monongalia County, W.Va., over the 2009 fish kill.
The commission blamed discharges from Consol mines for the deaths of about 43,000 fish, 15,000 mussels and 6,500 mudpuppies. It said it will take decades for the stream to return to health.
Lynn Seay, Consol’s media relations director, said company officials had not seen the lawsuits and would not comment until they did. The lawsuit also names as defendants Consolidation Coal Co. and Windsor Coal Co., both located at Consol’s headquarters in Canonsburg.
In the immediate aftermath of the kill, other fish were lethargic, with many congregating at the mouths of small tributaries and some seen gulping for air at the surface, the lawsuit said.
“Inspection of the stressed and dying fish revealed that their gills were inflamed, blood vessels were dilated or ruptured and tissues were abnormally reddish” near their gills, commission lawyers wrote in the West Virginia complaint.
The Pennsylvania agency said high levels of chloride, total dissolved solids and salinity were associated with the growth of golden algae in that area of Dunkard Creek.
“Chloride and TDS discharges from defendants’ mines created and/or contributed to the creation of conditions favorable for the presence of golden algae in excessive quantities, which ultimately led to the fish kill,” according to the fish commission’s West Virginia lawsuit.
It said Dunkard Creek is the only known location for the salamander mussel.
The September 2009 fish kill on the tributary of the Monongahela River left the stream tea-colored and devoid of nearly all life, with only water bugs and some minnows from feeder streams still alive.

Man towing boat upside-down arrested for DUI

I can hear the guy now: “But officer, I only had one or tee martoonis.”

From the Associated Press:

BETHANY BEACH, Del. (AP) — Delaware Fish and Wildlife officials have charged a Pennsylvania man with driving under the influence after he continued to drive his truck after the boat and trailer he was towing flipped upside down.
Forty-year-old Eric A. Willis of Avondale, Pa., was also charged with resisting arrest and numerous traffic offenses. He is being held on $5,000 cash bail.
Authorities tell The News Journal of Wilmington that Willis was removing his pontoon from the water at Holts Landing and was towing it on Whites Neck Road when it hit a parked car and overturned.
He was eventually stopped by state park rangers and other authorities.

Here’s the News Journal article. It has a lot more of the absurd — and amusing — details.

Is that a tortoise in your pants, or….

Trouser snakes — and tortoises (TSA photo)

An unidentified airline passenger certainly wasn’t happy to see the Transportation Safety Administration agents who arrested him for trying to smuggle seven exotic snakes and three tortoises out of the country in his underwear.

From the Associated Press:

MIAMI (AP) — The Transportation Security Administration says a man tried to board a flight from Miami to Brazil with nylon bags filled with exotic snakes and tortoises hidden in his pants.
TSA spokesman Jonathon Allen says the man was stopped after passing through a body scanner at Miami International Airport last Thursday. Security officials spotted the nylon bags filled with seven snakes and three tortoises stuffed inside the man’s pants.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports the animals were taken by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The unidentified passenger was arrested.

Feds investigate Gibson for Lacey Act violations

This post has nothing to do with hunting or fishing, but instead deals with conservation. So here goes:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shut down the Gibson Guitars plant in Nashville Wednesday and searched for evidence that Gibson officials had violated the Lacey Act.

Most of us hunters and anglers recognize the Lacey Act as the federal law that prevents illegally taken wildlife from being taken across state lines. Apparently the law applies to wood, too, because that’s what the feds were investigating at Gibson.

Apparently some Indian ebony fretboard blanks the company had imported were mislabeled as veneer sheets. Other alleged violations were investigated as well. Gibson’s CEO said the lost day of production cost the company an estimated $1 million, and vowed to resume production even though the company might face penalties for doing so.

The full story is here, in the Tennessean.

Man sentenced for panther killing

The panther Adams killed. (Ga. DNR photo)

If a Florida panther crosses the border into Georgia, does it cease to be a Florida panther?

Apparently not. A Georgia federal court has fined a 60-year-old man $2,000 and sentenced him to two years’ probation for killing one of the endangered cats.

 From the Associated Press:

NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) — A 60-year-old former Georgia resident has been fined $2,000 and sentenced to probation after he was accused of shooting an endangered Florida panther.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says David Adams was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to unlawfully killing the animal. He cannot hunt while serving a 2-year probation sentence.
Prosecutors accused Adams of shooting the cougar while he was hunting deer in Troup County on Nov. 16, 2008. Federal officials say Adams was aware that the animal was legally protected.
Adams, who represented himself, did not return a message seeking comment.
The Florida panther became an endangered species in 1967. The population of those panthers has grown from fewer than 30 in the late 1980s to somewhere between 100 to 160 adults today.

I personally believe Adams got off too easy. If the feds want people to believe that violating the Endangered Species Act is a serious offense, they need to impose serious penalties. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances, but if there weren’t the sentence was far too light.

Wildlife officer faces federal charges

What was OK locally isn't OK federally

Allan Wright, a wildlife officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources,  probably breathed a sigh of relief when local prosecutors dropped record-tampering and falsification charges against him.

The feds didn’t let him off that easily.

Wright was indicted in federal district court Wednesday for violations of the Lacey Act, which prohibits interstate wildlife trafficking. He didn’t kill the deer he’s accused of helping to send to South Carolina, but he allegedly sold the illicit license that allowed it to happen.

The Associated Press has the story:

CINCINNATI (AP) — A Department of Natural Resources wildlife officer was indicted Wednesday on federal charges accusing him of helping a South Carolina hunter illegally obtain an Ohio-resident deer license at a discount that saved him about $105.
Allan Wright of Russellville was charged Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati with trafficking in and making false records for illegally harvested white-tailed deer, state and federal authorities said.
The 45-year-old Wright was being placed on immediate unpaid administrative leave, the department said. Phone and email messages seeking comment were left for his attorney after business hours Wednesday.
Investigators have said Wright illegally let a South Carolina wildlife official use his home address in 2006 to receive a $19 Ohio license instead of paying the $125 out-of-state fee. They said the hunter killed three deer, Wright processed them as legally obtained, and the hunter transported the deer to South Carolina.
He had been charged last year in Brown County in southwest Ohio with state charges of record tampering and falsification, charges that were later dropped.
Wright also is accused of improperly giving someone in Michigan antlers he seized from a hunter who had killed a white-tailed deer illegally in 2009, and later lying about his actions on a state form.
Wright faces two felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and two misdemeanors, each punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Snakebite uncovers man’s exotic serpent cache

Scary find

Authorities got quite a surprise when they rushed to a Hendersonville, N.C., home to aid its owner, who had been bitten by a venomous exotic snake.

Upon entering Walter Clarence Kidd’s single-wide trailer, they discovered more than 60 snakes — mostly venomous — kept in a manner they described as “haphazard.”

Kidd had to be airlifted to South Carolina for treatment because the local hospital didn’t have the right kind of antivenin. Investigators said some of the confiscated snakes were so exotic that no antivenin existed for them.

The Hendersonville Times-News has the story.