Originally created 09/23/04

Officers conduct hunting inquiry



Federal wildlife authorities are evaluating evidence in a dove-baiting case in which two South Carolina Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officers are suspected of hunting doves over a baited field last weekend.

Lt. Robert McCullough, the media spokesman for the department's law enforcement section, would not identify the game wardens involved because no formal charges had been filed as of Wednesday.

"I am aware of an ongoing investigation," he said. "But we are unaware of any charges that have been made at this time."

The incident occurred Satur-day in a rural area near the Edgefield-McCormick County line and involved agents from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's field office in Columbia.

Mourning doves, migratory birds that travel from state to state, are regulated by the federal government and state authorities.

Doves are routinely hunted from harvested grain fields, but baiting fields to attract doves is illegal.

A Fish & Wildlife Service agent in Columbia referred questions to Agent-in-Charge Andrew Aloise at the agency's regional law enforcement office in Raleigh, N.C.

He left a message saying he was unable to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Federal game wardens process charges somewhat differently than state conservation officers, who typically issue misdemeanor citations with a written ticket, much like a speeding violation, Lt. McCullough said.

The Fish & Wildlife Service often formalizes charges only after consulting with the U.S. attorney's office that has jurisdiction in the region where the alleged offense occurred.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Max Cauthen, of the U.S. attorney's office in Greenville, S.C., which has jurisdiction, would neither confirm nor deny the investigation.

"But if and when someone is charged, it would become a matter of public record," he said.

Lt. McCullough said any formal charges in the case would trigger an internal investigation of South Carolina DNR's law enforcement section.

"We do have an internal affairs division and those things are looked into," he said. "We take all charges at face value and we investigate them."

He would not speculate on when the case will proceed.

"At this point we're waiting on a formal allegation, and at that time it will be investigated fully and appropriate action will be taken at that time, if it is needed," he said.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.