The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
Texas Game Wardens had their hands full over the Fourth of July holiday weekend as heightened water recreation participation across the state led to numerous calls for assistance. In all, wardens responded to 12 drowning fatalities and two near drownings, 34 boating accidents that resulted in one fatality and eight serious injuries, filed 57 cases for boating and driving while intoxicated, and made 55 other arrests. By the time they closed the books on the three-day affair, wardens had made contact with more than 56,000 boaters onboard 16,000 vessels.
In June, a Cooke County game warden was called in to assist with a missing hunter along the Red River. An adult male had separated from the group during the early morning hog hunt and had not been heard from. The warden deployed an ATV to cover the large adjoining property. Local air support and search dogs were also called in but the subject, who also is believed to have several outstanding felony warrants, was not located. Missing person investigation continues.
A Henderson County game warden was patrolling Cedar Creek Lake when he came in contact with a vessel that had expired registration and a non-serviceable fire extinguisher. After further investigation, it was determined the owner of the vessel had an active warrant for criminal non-support. The owner of the vessel was transported to the Henderson County Jail. As the warden continued his water safety patrol, he observed a ski boat driving recklessly near residential boat docks. After several attempts, the warden was able to get the boat to stop. He noticed the driver and passenger “huddling” as if they were trying to get their story straight. During the contact he observed the operator of the vessel seemed very uneasy and didn’t know where any of his water safety equipment was located. Upon further investigation, it was determined the vessel had been stolen back in April. The driver and the passenger were both transported to the Henderson County Jail for Unauthorized Use of a Vessel. The operator also had several outstanding warrants in several different counties.
Limestone County game wardens were refueling at a local gas station when a car with three females drove up and attempted to flirt with the officers. The driver exhibited several signs of intoxication including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and impaired judgment and delayed motor skills. SFST (Standardized Field Sobriety Tests) were performed and the driver was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated.
A Wharton County game warden wrapped up a short-term investigation into the illegal taking of several white-tailed deer by the means of snares. The warden received information from a concerned ranch hand who had come across several snares on a fence line of adjoining properties. Some deer were seen caught still alive, while others were already deceased. The warden documented the locations of the snares and interviewed neighboring landowners, farmers, ranch hands and several hunters with no confessions. He then checked local stores in the community and received a list of names of those who recently bought snares, which included one of the names the warden had already interviewed. With this new information and other evidence, the warden got a full confession from the suspect who admitted to snaring several deer, but claimed he was targeting feral hogs. Cases and civil restitution are pending.
Comal and Bexar County game wardens and two game warden cadets responded to a boating accident on Canyon Lake over the July 4th weekend. The game wardens had just provided security for a large fireworks display with hundreds of boats on the water when the call was received. It was a dark night on the lake and visibility was poor. A speed boat struck a large tree and ejected all four occupants into the water. As the boat began to sink, wardens retrieved all four of the victims from the water; one of which was taken to the hospital with broken ribs, while the others only received bumps and bruises and were released at the scene. The driver of the boat was located and SFSTs performed, but no impairment was discovered. The driver was cited for negligent operation. The speed boat was recovered from the lake the next morning and it was obvious from the extensive damage the occupants were very lucky.
A game warden patrolling a rural county road in Bailey County where he had recently received complaints from a landowner concerning people trespassing to fish on his property without consent made contact with a suspicious pickup that was stopped in the middle of the public roadway. Upon further investigation he discovered the driver had stopped to shoot a snake from the roadway. The shooter was charged with hunting from a public roadway, discharging a firearm on a public roadway and no hunting license.
Game wardens were patrolling Possum Kingdom Lake for water safety compliance when they stopped two PWCs (Personal Watercraft) for water safety inspections and subsequently issued both operators citations for not having boater education. As the subjects left the contact, they quickly accelerated and sprayed each other with their PWCs. The wardens then initiated their emergency lights and siren to conduct a stop on the same individuals for reckless operation. One subject stopped while the other looked back at the lights, siren and wardens motioning for him to come back, then turned and quickly accelerated in the opposite direction. The wardens issued another citation to the subject that complied and stopped, then trailed him to the lake house where he and the other subject were staying. As the wardens approached the dock, they observed the subject that evaded them take off on foot towards the lake house. After a few minutes and some convincing, the subject emerged from the house and was placed under arrest for reckless operation and evading arrest with a watercraft. Cases pending.
Game wardens were conducting a water safety inspection on Buffalo Springs Lake when they smelled the odor of burning plastic. The wardens discovered a fire had started in the engine compartment of the vessel that they were inspecting. The wardens reacted quickly and extinguished the flames with their fire extinguisher avoiding injury to themselves or other parties on the vessel. However, the operator was cited for not having a serviceable fire extinguisher on board.
Game wardens and K9 Rusty patrolling the ski basin in Nueces County for water safety enforcement inspected a homemade barge for its water safety equipment and for not having navigational lights while operating at dark. The vessel was found to also be unregistered and while one warden was issuing the captain a citation another noticed drug paraphernalia in the captain’s dry box while he was retrieving his identification. A search of the dry box revealing several items of drug paraphernalia. Meanwhile, a female passenger on board consented to a visual inspection of her purse, which revealed a bag of marijuana and a bag of methamphetamine crystals. The female passenger was arrested for possession of controlled substance and possession of marijuana and taken to the Nueces County Jail. The captain was issued several citations and released. Cases pending.