Hunting News

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vandenberg Natural Resources Office seeks docents this plover season

by Staff Sgt. Erica Picariello
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

2/27/2013 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Vandenberg Natural Resources Office has strengthened their effort to protect a small threatened species' habitat by charging base personnel and local community members to act as docents beginning March 1.

Vandenberg restricts access to all three beaches on base property annually from March 1 through Sept. 30 during the Western Snowy Plover's nesting season, to protect its nests and young.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a docent is an educator, and the word comes from the Latin word, "Docere," meaning, "To teach."

These volunteer docents will do just that - educate beach goers about plover nesting areas and beach rules that change the plover's nesting season, according to the base biological scientist.

"The beach docents will be trained volunteers who maintain a level of expertise about the species and its habitat," said Samantha Kaisersatt, Vandenberg Biological Scientist. "Anybody, military or civilian, can volunteer to be a docent. They will be on the beach, offering information to visitors and letting them know what areas are restricted."

Each year, Vandenberg restricts access to certain sections of the beach where this threatened species likes to nest.

"The Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover breeds on coastal beaches from southern Washington to Southern Baja California, Mexico," Kaisersatt said. "Preferred breeding habitats include sand spits, dune-backed beaches, unvegetated beach strands, open areas around estuaries, and beaches at river mouths."

Vandenberg is allowed a specific number of violations, which includes entry into any posted closed area, before the beach is closed for the remainder of the season.

Last year, Surf Beach reached 50 violations, its maximum, by July 20. Wall beach was also on the brink of closing with nine out of the 10 allowed violations.

Kaisersatt believes the beach violations can be reduced with these docents patrolling the beaches, increasing awareness about beach rules during the nesting season.

"The volunteer docents will help protect the snowy plovers and increase public awareness," Kaisersatt said. "Docents play an important role in the survival and recovery of this species while helping to maintain recreational access."

Anyone wishing to become a Western Snowy Plover docent can call Samantha Kaisersatt at 805-605-0392.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sonoran pronghorn continue to thrive

by Teresa Walker
56th Range Management Office

2/22/2013 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- An estimated 85 percent of the U.S. population of Sonoran pronghorn died during a severe drought in 2001 and 2002. They inhabit the Barry M. Goldwater Range, an active military range.

Drastic measures were taken to sustain the remaining 21 animals and recover the species. These measures included provision of emergency water sources, developing forage enhancement plots, and building two semicaptive breeding pens, one on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge built in 2004, and another in King Valley, on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, built in 2011.

The Sonoran pronghorn is federally listed as an endangered species in 1967, is the fastest land mammal in North America, clocking speeds up to 60 miles per hour. A desert sub-species of the antelope family, the Sonoran pronghorn is smaller and lighter in color than other pronghorn subspecies and is uniquely adapted for survival in harsh desert conditions.

The Sonoran pronghorn population is currently estimated at more than 150 animals, due to the specific actions of many state and federal agencies to bring the animal back from extinction.

Aaron Alvidrez, 56th Range Management Office wildlife biologist said it's been a long road to recovery but the results of all the labor are coming to fruition.

"A lot of hard work and teamwork is needed to implement pronghorn recovery actions," Alvidrez said. "Through teamwork and persistence, we are beginning to see our efforts pay off."

To minimize operational impacts and gain a better understanding of the animals, the 56th RMO goes to great lengths to ensure the safety of the animals.

Contracted biologists are used to survey and monitor for Sonoran pronghorn in known habitat areas prior to any missions taking place on the range. The pronghorn monitors establish the proximity of the animals to target arrays to ensure their safety.

When pronghorn are present, targets are closed based on their type and proximity to the animals; training and inert ordnance targets within 1 kilometer of sightings are closed for the day; and high explosive hills within 1.5 kilometers of sightings are closed for the day. Typically, scheduled missions are diverted to other targets if available, or canceled if no alternate targets are available.

The RMO employs a modified range maintenance schedule to further reduce potential effects on the Sonoran pronghorn during fawning season.

The annual Sonoran pronghorn capture and release operation in December 2012 was a success due to assistance from many agencies including Arizona Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Luke Air Force Base, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma; the Ajo, Yuma, and Wellton Border Patrol Sectors; Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the Phoenix Zoo.

According to Alvidrez, the pronghorn capture and release process has evolved and the team continues to improve each year.

"For me, the captures are an exciting event with a lot of moving parts," he said. "The use of two helicopters and a large veterinary staff helped to transport multiple animals in a relatively short time. During the three-day event, we handled more than 60 animals and reached our goal of relocating 22 target animals."

The United States and Mexico are currently engaged in an international effort to capture and breed the Sonoran pronghorn for reintroduction into suitable habitats. Capture-breed-transplant actions are considered essential to the survival of the Sonoran pronghorn (commonly referred to as 'antelope') as they are one of the most endangered mammals in the world.

The BMGR is primarily used to train pilots but over the years has expanded its scope to allow some limited ground training. In land mass, the range encompasses more than 1.7 million acres, with the Air Force retaining land management responsibilities for more than a million acres on the eastern portion and the Marines approximately 700,000 acres on the western side. The range stretches from Yuma to beyond Gila Bend and from Interstate 8 south to the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

Portions of this article were contributed by Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Colorado Big Game Outfitter Sentenced to Prison for Six Lacey Act Felonies

Big game hunting outfitter Dennis Eugene Rodebaugh, 72, of Meeker, Colo., was sentenced in Denver today to 41 months in prison to be followed by three years supervised release for six felony counts of violating the Lacey Act, announced the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  District Judge Christine M. Arguello also sentenced Rodebaugh, to pay a $7,500 fine to the Lacey Act reward fund and $37,390 in restitution to the state of Colorado for the value of illegally taken elk and deer.   

Rodebaugh was found guilty by a jury in September 2012 of aiding and abetting six violations of the Lacey Act by providing outfitting and guiding services from salt-baited tree-stands between 2005 and 2007.  Beginning in 1988, Mr. Rodebaugh began offering multi-day elk and deer hunts to out-of-state clients on the White River National Forest through his outfitting business, called “D&S Guide and Outfitter,” for between $1,200 and $1,600. 

Rodebaugh's assistant guide, Brian Kunz, was also sentenced today.  He previously pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of violating the Lacey Act while working for Rodebaugh.  Based on his acceptance of responsibility and the government’s motion for downward departure based on his cooperation, the court sentenced Mr. Kunz to time served (one day) and one year of probation plus a $2,000 fine
Each spring and summer, Mr. Rodebaugh placed hundreds of pounds of salt as bait near the tree-stands from which his clients would hunt deer and elk with archery equipment. The placement and use of salt to aid in the taking of big game is unlawful in Colorado.  The interstate sale of big game outfitting and guiding services for the unlawful taking of big game with the aid of bait constitutes a violation of the Lacey Act.

This case was investigated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney J. Ronald Sutcliffe and Trial Attorney Mark Romley, of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Members of Rhino Smuggling Ring Arrested and Charged

Chinese Business Executive Arrested After Allegedly Offering Bribe
Three people have been charged this week in Newark, Miami and New York City with wildlife smuggling and related charges for their alleged roles in an international rhino horn smuggling ring, the Justice Department announced today.  The arrests and charges are the result of “Operation Crash”, a nationwide effort led by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horns.

Federal grand juries in Newark, N.J., and Miami have indicted Zhifei Li, in the international smuggling of rhinoceros horns.  Shusen Wei, a 44 year old Chinese business executive and an associate of Li, has also been charged with offering to bribe a federal agent in the Li case. Qing Wang was charged today in a related criminal complaint in federal court in the Southern District of New York for his role in smuggling libation cups carved from rhinoceros horns from New York to Li via Hong Kong.

According to the indictment filed in Newark on Feb. 11, 2013, Li, a 28 year-old Chinese national, conspired to smuggle more than 20 raw rhinoceros horns from the United States to Hong Kong in 2011 and 2012.  Li wired hundreds of thousands of dollars over at least a year to a co-conspirator in the United States to fund purchases of rhinoceros horns.  Li’s co-conspirator smuggled the rhino horns in porcelain vases and mailed them to Hong Kong and China to a person other than Li, in an effort to evade detection by U.S. officials.  Li and his co-conspirator bought many of the horns in New Jersey from other members of the conspiracy.  Li was arrested in January on charges previously filed in New Jersey.  
Li also was indicted on Feb. 12, 2013, in Miami on wildlife trafficking and smuggling charges.  According to court records and government statements made in court, shortly after arriving in Florida in January 2013 for the Original Miami Beach Antique Show, Li purchased two endangered black rhinoceros horns from an undercover U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agent in a Miami Beach hotel room for $59,000.  Li asked if the undercover officer could procure additional rhinoceros horns and mail them to his company in Hong Kong.
 Also arrested on a related criminal complaint filed in Miami was Shusen Wei, a Chinese business executive, who also was attending the antique show and sharing a hotel room with Li.  According to documents filed in court in Miami, Wei was interviewed by agents after Li’s arrest and admitted to knowing about Li’s smuggling activities and to purchasing rhinoceros carvings from Li that apparently had been purchased in and smuggled from the United States.  After being served with a grand jury subpoena to appear in New Jersey, Wei left Miami for New York en route to China.  Prior to leaving Miami, Wei allegedly asked an undercover informant to invite a FWS special agent out to dinner in Miami and offer her money to assist Li.  After a series of recorded phone calls and text messages, Wei was arrested as he attempted to board a flight bound for China at JFK International Airport in New York on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2013, on charges of bribing a federal official.  According to documents filed in court, Wei proposed that the undercover informant offer the agent as much as $10,000.

Qing Wang is scheduled to appear in court today to face charges in a criminal complaint in the Southern District of New York for his role in smuggling libation cups carved from rhinoceros horns from New York to Li in Hong Kong.  According to documents unsealed today, Wang was one of several that purchased items in the United States for Li.  In China, there is a tradition dating back centuries of intricately carved rhinoceros horn cups .  Drinking from such a cup was believed to bring good health and such carvings are highly prized by collectors. Wang is alleged to have been smuggling rhinoceros horn cups as well as ivory carvings to Li in Hong Kong.    

An indictment or criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Rhinoceros are an herbivore species of prehistoric origin and one of the largest remaining mega-fauna on earth. They have no known predators other than humans.  All species of rhinoceros are protected under United States and international law, and all black rhinoceros species are endangered.  Since 1976, trade in rhinoceros horn has been regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by more than 175 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets.

Nevertheless, the demand for rhinoceros horn and black market prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to the value that some cultures have placed on ornamental carvings, good luck charms or alleged medicinal purposes, leading to a decimation of the global rhinoceros population.  As a result, rhino populations have declined by more than 90 percent since 1970.  South Africa, for example, has witnessed a rapid escalation in poaching of live animals, rising from 13 in 2007 to more than 618 in 2012.   

Operation Crash (named for the term used to describe a herd of rhinoceros) is an ongoing multi-agency effort to detect, deter and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of rhinoceros horns.  The investigation resulting in the charges announced today has been conducted by the Special Investigations Unit of the FWS Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.  The Li case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of New Jersey by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O’Leary.  The Wei case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Watts-FitzGerald in the Southern District of Florida. The Wang case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis Echenberg in the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.  Senior Trial Attorney Richard A. Udell of the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice is assisting in and coordinating all of the prosecutions.  Additional support has been provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.