A sampling of field reports from Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers in the Upper Peninsula:
Feb.21 to March 6
Conservation Officer Brian Lasanen was patrolling a closed multi-use state trail when he contacted the operator of a snow bike and a group of other snowmobiles operating on the closed trail. CO Lasanen noticed the bike and another snowmobile did not have a valid trail permit showing. When questioned about this, one of the riders stated he had not bought a trail sticker in the past 10 years and just took his chances that he would not run into an officer. Both the riders were issued tickets.
COs Jenni Hanson and Zach Painter patrolled Lake Gogebic during an ice fishing tournament. Upon checking one group, CO Hanson noticed numerous jig rods through the ice, but only two people. A total of nine lines were counted. At first the subject claimed his friend was at the bar and would be right back. Then his story changed, admitting he thought you were allowed three jig rods and two tip-ups per person. The subject was cited for having too many lines in the water.
CO Byron Parks was patrolling in Houghton County when a call came out about a snowmobile personal injury accident. The operator sustained a deep laceration to his forehead when he attempted to climb a hill and lost control. The subject was thrown over the handlebars with the snowmobile landing on top of him. CO Parks provided first aid until emergency medical services arrived and transported the subject to the local hospital.
COs Andrea Dani and Mark Zitnik were invited to a Northern Michigan University Zoom class. The COs explained to the students the hiring process, why they chose their occupation, and how each day and season dictates the focus of enforcement for each shift. The COs ended the class taking questions on how COs work with biologists and many other environmental organizations and law enforcement agencies to be successful.
CO Andrea Dani was at the Shingleton Field Office when she heard a “be on the lookout” for a vehicle traveling in her direction just a few miles west of her location on M-28. CO Dani observed the suspect vehicle slow down and activate a turn signal then disregard the turn and continue past her patrol truck. The driver turned his head around to stare at the patrol truck.
CO Dani followed the vehicle and observed it slowly weaving throughout the lane. She conducted a traffic stop and the vehicle pulled into a convenience store. The driver exited his vehicle, gripping and leaning on the side of his truck as he walked around it. He then stated with a slurred speech that he did not see the patrol truck or know it was behind him. CO Dani observed a white powdery substance covering the driver’s tongue and lips. CO Dani relayed this information to dispatch, at which time the driver tried to quickly drink a large amount of apple juice to wash it away. The driver handed CO Dani a debit card instead of a driver’s license and then stated the powder must be toothpaste. A closer look indicated the same substance on and around the driver’s nose. The driver then stated the powder must be snot from snow blowing earlier. Alger County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Sam Grahovac then arrived on scene and performed standardized field sobriety tests. The driver failed the SFSTs. He was arrested and transported by Sgt. Grahovac to the local hospital for a blood draw and lodged in the Alger County Jail for operating while intoxicated by drugs.
CO Steve Butzin investigated a Delta County resident as he was suspected to have shot a deer during the past rifle season without a license. An interview was conducted, and evidence was found, which proved that this individual shot a six-point buck without a license. A report is being submitted for taking a deer without a license to the Delta County Prosecutor’s Office.
COs Chris Lynch and Andrea Danni conducted two snowmobile patrols over the weekend. The COs issued three citations for carless operation. While on patrol the COs responded to a snowmobile personal injury accident near Kingston Lake. The operator lost control of the snowmobile and crashed. The COs assisted the Alger County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation and removing the injured person to an awaiting ambulance.
CO Mark Zitnik assisted the Michigan State Police with a search for a man in the Chatham area who was walking on the road with a shotgun, wearing only underwear and acting disoriented. The MSP, Alger County Sheriff’s Deputy Sam Grahovac, and CO Zitnik searched the area for an hour looking for the man but were unable to locate him.
COs Todd Sumbera, Cole VanOosten, and Mike Olesen conducted a late-night group patrol on Munuscong Bay focusing on fishing lines being left out overnight during a fishing tournament. The COs located four lines that were left out overnight with no one tending to them. Contact was made with the four individuals as they returned to check on the lines and citations were issued for fishing with unattended lines.
CO Cole VanOosten was driving on M-28 in Chippewa County when he encountered severe whiteout conditions and came up on a large traffic jam of approximately 40 cars that could not navigate because of the extreme conditions. CO VanOosten notified Chippewa County Dispatch and with the assistance from the Michigan State Police, U.S. Border Patrol, and Bay Mills Tribal Police the stretch of highway was closed with traffic being directed to a different route. Several accident reports were taken but fortunately no injuries were reported.
March 7 to March 20
Conservation Officers Brian Lasanen and Ethen Mapes were patrolling in Ontonagon County when they observed a vehicle that was having a difficult time maintaining its lane of travel. The COs observed the vehicle cross over the center line, and at one point was traveling in the wrong lane of traffic. A stop was made of the vehicle and contact was initiated with the driver. It was quickly observed that the subject had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and had a hard time finding his identification in his wallet. An investigation was initiated, and standardized field sobriety tests were conducted on the subject. After failing the SFSTs and blowing a 0.17 on a preliminary breath test, the subject was arrested for operating while intoxicated and lodged in the Ontonagon County Jail.
CO Byron Parks was traveling on M-38 when he approached a bridge. There was a vehicle parked on the side of the bridge. CO Parks knew that this part of the Firesteel River was closed to fishing, so he pulled over. As CO Parks walked down towards the river, he could see two subjects holding fishing poles. The two subjects began walking further downstream, right past a “No Trespassing” sign. CO Parks continued to follow, eventually stopping, and just watching as both subjects started fishing. Moments later the two subjects started yelling, “Get out of here” and clapping their hands.CO Parks knew the subjects could not see him, so he did not know who they were talking to. Then he heard the subjects yell, “Get out of here, bear!”
After about a minute the subjects stopped yelling and continued fishing. CO Parks then made contact; the subjects said there was a bear in the tree right where they were fishing, but they scared it off. CO Parks then advised them of the multiple violations. CO Parks cited one subject for fishing on a closed stream and gave verbal warnings for the recreational trespass.
CO Shannon Kritz received a complaint that an individual started a grass fire, resulting in 40 acres along with a structure being burned. CO Kritz patrolled to the location and observed that the fire had almost reached the neighbor’s house, but the fire department was able to contain the fire on time. CO Kritz interviewed the suspect, who explained that he was burning a brush pile and did not think it would catch the hay field on fire despite the county being under a very high fire danger warning. CO Kritz issued the subject a citation for burning without a permit.
CO Shannon Kritz responded to multiple grass fires in Menominee County over the weekend. CO Kritz investigated each grass fire to determine the cause of the fires. Due to the high fire danger, one fire began when a spark fell from a chimney onto a field while the occupants were making maple syrup. Another fire began while a subject was sighting in his rifle and he noticed the grass behind his target begin to smoke. CO Kritz investigated a third fire where the subject stated that the fire started because they were burning a cardboard box and it blew out of a fire pit.CO Kritz could see that the subject had a large pile of brush that they were burning on top of a fire pit with branches extending way past the borders of the fire pit. CO Kritz explained that on top of burning yard debris during a restricted fire permit day, garbage needs to be burned in a legal container. CO Kritz issued a citation to that individual for failing to prevent the spread of a fire. In each circumstance, local and state fire departments were able to respond quickly and put out the fires before any major structures were damaged or people injured.
CO Andrea Dani was approached by an angler with a large steelhead. The angler was concerned about several large masses found in and around the gills of the fish. CO Dani sent photographs of the fish to Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division, who identified the masses as thyroid hyperplasia, or goiters, which is associated with numerous factors, including iodine deficiency, genetic susceptibility, environmental factors, and exposure to goitrogenic substances. Fish Biologist Cory Kovacs noted this did not make the fish harmful to eat, but that anglers should be aware of other potential risks in eating any fish whether there are visible abnormalities or not.
CO Todd Sumbera was checking ice anglers on the St. Mary’s River over the weekend and contacted an individual with an unlicensed off-road vehicle pulling a jet sled with blood in it. The angler stated that he caught one pike and took it back to camp when he had left for lunch. A warning was issued for the ORV license. The next day CO Sumbera contacted the same individual operating his ORV back to his vehicle when his belongings fell out of his jet sled. Upon arrival the angler quickly covered his jet sled with plywood. CO Sumbera asked if he had any luck fishing. The angler stated, “I saw a lot of fish.” Further investigating revealed that the angler had speared five pike. CO Sumbera issued a citation for an over-limit of pike and seized three pike, all over 30 inches in length.
CO Mike Olesen followed up on a complaint of a loon and goose carcasses dumped along the side of a road in Chippewa County. CO Olesen patrolled the area, contacting the complainant and then locating the carcasses. Upon examining the dumped bird remains, it was determined that four of the five carcasses were of domestic chickens and the final carcass was that of a domestic duck. CO Olesen cleared the scene and is checking the area for a potential suspect for littering.
CO Cole VanOosten was on patrol in Mackinac County when he observed an angler with several tip-ups out. As CO VanOosten approached, he observed five tip-ups around where the individual was fishing. When asked to see his fishing license the fisherman stated. “Fishing license? I don’t need a fishing license.” The fisherman stated that the state had no power over him, and he could do whatever he wants. The individual admitted to having five tip-ups out as well as jigging a pole in another hole. The fisherman stated that he was part of a “non-treaty” tribe from Canada that did not sign the 1836 Treaty. CO VanOosten informed him that he was in the 1836 treaty area and had to follow state law unless a member of one of the recognized tribes of the 1836 treaty. A license check determined that the individual did have a Michigan fishing license. When asked why he did not provide his fishing license, the individual laughed and stated he always does that just to be difficult. A citation was issued for fishing more than three lines, no name/address on tip-up, and failing to provide fishing license on demand of a conservation officer.
CO Cole VanOosten was on patrol when a call of an individual with a possible heart attack was called out near his location. CO VanOosten was first on scene and provided first aid until emergency medical services was able to arrive.
Conservation officers are fully licensed peace officers who enforce laws related to fish and wildlife, state parks, trails and forests, and outdoor recreation activities such as off-road vehicle use, snowmobiling and boating. They also are first responders to a variety of natural disasters and emergencies.