AUSTIN – Texas Game Wardens come across many strange and dangerous things on a routine basis. Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, Wardens were confronted with endangered species and bird hunters peppering them.
All in a day's work for Texas Game Wardens.
The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) law enforcement reports.
In August, a concerned citizen contacted Montgomery County game wardens regarding a neighbor keeping an alligator in his back yard. The wardens responded to the home where the alligator was reportedly kept. The homeowner admitted to capturing an alligator 4 or 5 feet in length from Lake Conroe, transporting it home to show his kids and then releasing it the next day. The wardens inspected the property and noticed a room full of aquariums. Knowledgeable in aquatic species, one of the wardens identified the animals as freshwater stingrays, which are an invasive species and illegal to possess. Through further conversation, the homeowner also admitted to removing a small alligator snapping turtle from Lake Livingston and keeping it in a tank. As the largest freshwater turtle in North America and a threatened species, it is illegal to capture or possess one without a permit. After discussing the matter with the homeowner, he agreed to assist game wardens in relocating the animals to better suited facilities. The turtle was donated to the Spring Creek Nature Center, which is permitted to possess native species and display them for educational purposes. The stingrays were transported to Moody Gardens to educate the public about different ecosystems and the harm that invasive species can cause to local wildlife.
Perception Pays Off
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit released a “Be on the Lookout” bulletin to assist in the identification of an individual and vehicle last seen leaving a crime scene in the San Elizario area. An El Paso/Hudspeth County game warden remembered the vehicle from a recent encounter with fishermen which resulted in the arrest of the individual. The warden contacted the lead investigator and passed along the identifying information. Several days later, El Paso County Sherriff’s detectives notified the warden that without firm leads in the case, the information he shared with their office was vital in locating the subject and the vehicle. Due to his inter-agency collaboration, an arrest was carried out.
Hold the Pepper
In September, a Bexar County game warden received a call from Austin communications about dove hunters peppering local residences with shotgun pellets. Upon arrival to the field, the warden observed two gentlemen hunting. As he drove up to the individuals, one of the gentlemen stood up and shot a bird that fell a few yards from him. The warden proceeded to complete a hunting check. He spoke with the individual and asked if he was aware of the type of bird he had just shot. The hunter did not know. The warden informed him that the bird was an American kestrel, a protected bird of prey, and is not allowed to be hunted or harvested. The warden checked the other hunters in the group and discussed the issues around peppering, ensuring their shotgun pellets did not cross property lines. A citation was issued for harvesting a protected species. The case and civil restitution are pending.
Off the Road Again
An Amarillo district game warden was patrolling in Potter County after dark when he was notified about an injured individual who had been “run over” by an all-terrain vehicle. The warden responded immediately. He found one adult male hit by an ATV and suffering non-life-threatening injuries to his legs. The victim and other eyewitnesses at the scene identified another adult male as the driver of the ATV. Upon speaking with the driver of the ATV, the warden noticed that he had heavily slurred speech patterns, glassy/bloodshot eyes, and the odor of alcohol emitting from his breath. The victim of the collision was transported to an Amarillo hospital. The driver of the ATV admitted hitting the victim with the ATV and was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated and deadly conduct. The driver was booked into the Potter County Jail without incident.
Caught on Camera
In September, a Tyler County game warden received information on individuals potentially participating in road hunting. The warden worked with a landowner setting up surveillance cameras in their field. Not long after he set up the monitoring system, he observed a slow-moving vehicle spotlighting and headed towards his location. The warden initiated a traffic stop, determining the subjects were hunting at night. Inside the vehicle, the warden located a loaded .22 long rifle. Additionally, the subject was a minor operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Charges are pending.