A good tip on the Californians Turn in Poachers and Polluters (CalTIP) hotline – combined with the well-trained nose of a K-9 wildlife officer – led to the recent conviction of a deer poacher in Susanville.
In June 2013, Warden Nick Buckler received a CalTIP from a concerned citizen regarding dangerous shooting activity southeast of Susanville. Suspecting a possible poaching incident, Warden Buckler searched the area and located a dead doe near a Susanville property owned by Loren Dewayne Gelwick, 52. The condition of the carcass suggested the deer was killed by a shotgun blast.
Based upon the available evidence, Buckler obtained a search warrant to further search Gelwick’s property. With the assistance of fellow wildlife officers, including Warden Paul Cardoza and his Warden K-9 Kilo, and deputies from the Lassen County Sheriff’s Department, Buckler systematically searched the residence and surrounding property. While serving the warrant, the search team gained information to suggest Gelwick may have disassembled the shotgun and hid it in heavy vegetation among several acres of dense vegetation on the property.
Warden K-9 Kilo stepped up to do the job he was trained for. In addition to apprehending dangerous criminals, Warden K-9 Kilo is trained to alert on several scents, including gunpowder and firearms. Kilo went to work on the property surrounding the residence. Not only did Kilo find every piece of the disassembled shotgun, but he found the spent shotshells and shotshell wads that were used in the commission of the crime. By finding all of the pieces, Kilo allowed Buckler to perfectly reconstruct the poaching crime scene.
“Warden Cardoza and K-9 Kilo were able to locate very small but very important items of physical evidence over a very large and difficult search area,” Buckler reported. “Without Kilo, our chances of locating all the evidence were slim.”
Wardens and deputies awarded K-9 Kilo with lavish praise and his favorite rubber ball for a job well done.
On Feb. 8, 2014, Gelwick pled guilty to unlawful take of a deer out of season and unlawful discharge of a firearm within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling. He was fined $1,500 and was placed on two years of probation, during which time he cannot hunt or fish.
Buckler thanks the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office for their assistance throughout the investigation. He also credits the citizens of Lassen County, who continue to protect their own wildlife and habitat by reporting poaching and pollution activity to CDFW through the 24-hour CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258. Callers may remain anonymous if they so choose. The most useful information from witnesses typically includes time and location of the suspected crime, the suspect’s specific activity, suspect and vehicle descriptions (approximate style, size, color, age and especially unique characteristics), vehicle license plate number and last known direction of travel.