The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Law Enforcement Division noticed an upswing in "extreme" poaching cases in 2008.
These cases are characterized by the excessive killing of fish and wildlife species and repeat poaching offenders. Wardens also experienced two officer involved shootings during 2008.
"Every day wardens put their lives at risk to protect California's citizens and natural resources," said Nancy Foley, Chief of DFG's Law Enforcement Division. "Extreme poachers cause noticeable declines in local fish and wildlife populations and are our highest priority."
From high in the Sierra to the San Diego shoreline, the actions of extreme poachers challenge wardens, who often confront these poachers alone with little or no backup. This dangerous work is frustrating when wardens encounter the same poachers again and again. For example, during 2008:
A San Diego man was arrested for the fourth time for poaching lobsters in the La Jolla Conservation Area. On one of the four arrests, the investigating warden found he had hidden six undersized lobsters in his pants.
A Tuolumne County man was convicted of deer poaching to the extreme. During the initial investigation, wardens found evidence of 26 deer, many of them fresh kills with body parts strewn about the property. In the garage, 23 severed deer tails were tacked up on the wall.
A Gilroy man was convicted of a gross overlimit of waterfowl among other violations. Wardens found him to be in possession of 335 birds, mostly waterfowl species, representing almost every species of waterfowl that migrates to and from California.
Two Monterey County men were arrested for take and possession of 66 abalone from an area completely closed to abalone harvest year round. Both men had multiple prior convictions for abalone/commercial fishing violations.
The two shootings wardens were involved in took place during marijuana garden raids with allied law enforcement agencies. One grower was killed by a member of an allied agency during one raid and in a separate incident, another grower was apprehended after shots were fired.
Marijuana garden eradication on public lands is a high priority for wardens because of public safety concerns, poaching associated with the growers, pollution of grow sites and extensive habitat destruction.
On a positive note, DFG added 23 wardens from the 2008 Warden Academy and eight lateral transfers from other law enforcement agencies. The January 2009 Warden Academy is scheduled to begin with 28 new warden cadets.