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Notes from the Streams banner
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Notes and observations from around Pennsylvania
from Commission Waterways Conservation Officers
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Listen to your friends
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As a Waterways Conservation Officer we are always checking anglers to see how the fishing is and also to make sure they are legal and have a current PA fishing license. Often times we observe several people fishing our waterways and can usually see licenses displayed. Sometimes this can be done by sight and sometimes we have to use our binoculars for a closer look.

One day on the Juniata River, I observed several anglers wading and fishing underneath the Mifflin Bridge. I could see several anglers fishing but as I approached closer by vehicle, one angler went from fishing to instantly becoming a swimmer. He didn’t have shorts or swimwear on but when he finally stood up from the water, he was no longer holding a fishing rod.

I got out of the vehicle and asked everyone to hold up a fishing license and all did except for my swimmer (to my surprise?). He stated he wasn’t fishing. I asked him if he always goes swimming in jeans. He came to shore where I explained to him that if I had to go get his rod that he would be getting some additional fines. After knowing the gig was up, he waded out and got his rod.

His friends told him, “ I told you to go get a license.” Listen to your friends I told him.

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— WCO Richard Morder, Southcentral Region
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Son Knows Best
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While checking a private community lake, I came upon a young man making his way down a path to where his boat was docked. His stature seemed kind of bulky because he was wearing two life vests with his arms full of fishing rods and gear. I said to him that he was only required to wear one life jacket while boating. He said ‘“I know that, but my dad usually forgets to bring his, so I wore his down because that’s the only way I could carry everything else.”

Shortly after that, I ran into his father coming down the same path with an arm load of boating and fishing gear. I asked him if he had a life jacket. He said he forgot it again and began to turn around to go back. I said, “No worries, just walked past your son a little while ago and he was wearing his and yours.”

Smart kid …knows how to plan ahead for safety and look out for dad.

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— WCO Eric Weredyk, S Monroe / N Carbon Counties
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COB
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I started out the day on the patrol boat with Capt. Nestor and USBP Agent Mooney and we were checking anglers and boaters fishing in Lake Erie.  Very quickly the wave conditions changed and four to six foot waves covered Lake Erie.  So, after putting our boat away for the day, I received a phone call from the Northwest Region Office indicating there was a capsized boat with two people somewhere in the water out by the Ohio & Pennsylvania state line in Lake Erie.

After talking with Ohio Division of Watercraft and US Coast Guard, WCO Smolko, USBP Agent Mooney, and myself decided to get underway and assist in the search and rescue effort.  Immediately exiting Walnut Creek Marina and entering into the Lake we encountered now six to eight foot waves.  The waves were crashing over the bow and cabin of the boat as we would come out of the wave troughs.   It wasn’t going to be a pleasant ride.

Thankfully, the USCG helicopter out of Detroit Michigan arrived on scene and was able to locate and recover the two boaters safely from the water.   Their location was within the limits of Ohio, but they were transported to Erie via the helicopter for medical attention.  When I was interviewing both boaters they said they were fishing and the Lake just kicked up very quickly and they took a wave over their bow and then a second one and they were capsized before they knew it.  Luckily, one of the boaters was able to make a call to 911 before his cell phone died.  Thankfully they were already wearing their personal floatation devices (PFD’s) and they stayed with their boat holding on to it for almost an hour in very rough seas.

During my interview with the boat owner/operator he indicated to me that this is not the first boat he has sunk.  I looked at him funny, and he said that he was a retired Chief of the Boat (COB) with the US Navy’s Submarine Service.  Well done Master Chief.

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— WCO Brook Tolbert, Western Erie County
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The New Scarlet Letter
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Working in the Region Law Enforcement Office involves daily interaction with the public. Occasionally we get phone calls that rise above the routine and venture into the world of oddity and amusement. Linda Emel, North Central Region Seasonal Clerk Typist, took one of those calls recently.

A gentleman called to lodge a complaint regarding our automated licensing system. Due to the way the software is programmed, when this man attempted to buy his license it would only sell him a senior license based on his date of birth. Normally, this isn’t an issue. In fact, for many anglers, the reduced cost of a senior license is often a welcomed change after years of paying full price.

For this caller however, the presence of the letter “S” on his license broadcast the fact that he was a senior citizen. He was indignant when he informed Linda that he looks at least 10 years younger than he is and he didn’t want to advertise the fact that he was over 65.

Luckily, tragedy was averted when he found out he could purchase and display a license button and keep his license in his wallet.

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— CPT Gerald Barton, NC Region
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Yummy!
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I was working a well attended trout nursery open house at the West Caln Sportsmen’s Club Co-op nursery located in Hibernia County Park with WCO Tom Benevento. At last count 127 people enjoyed the event and had the opportunity to see the trout and how they are raised. One young boy about 6 years old had the chance to learn something a little bit extra.

The usual process as someone came to the event was that either WCO Benevento or myself would introduce ourselves, welcome them to the event, answer any questions, then hand out stocking information to the adults, goodie bags with snake and fish charts, as well as SE PA fishing maps, to the younger children and we would then direct them to a volunteer at the nursery who would hand them a 32 oz. paper cup which was about half full of the large size trout food pellets so that everyone then had an opportunity to feed the fish. They then got to see some of the large trout that had been put in a large white tank as a display, so that club members or we could identify the different types of trout for them.

It was about 3 hours into the event when the young man in question arrived at the event with his family. WCO Benevento handed out the goodie bags and I could see the young man's face light up as he admired the much prized snake and fish ID charts. He was then directed over to where he could get his cup of trout pellets to feed the trout in the runs.

About 3 minutes later we were startled by the panicked shrieks of the young boy's mother. I turned around expecting to see that the young man had fallen into the water as he fed the fish. But no, that wasn't it. The young man had the large cup of trout pellets tipped way back and had filled his mouth with the tasty morsels and began to chew.

Further investigation revealed that apparently the young man, who had not had any breakfast, was delighted when he was handed the half cup of trout chow without any instruction or direction about its purpose. We could only imagine the young man’s excitement, his stomach growling with hunger, as he tilted back his head and poured himself a mouthful of the tasty looking treats, and crunched down expecting the taste of sugary goodness, of what he thought was a rather large portion of Cocoa Puffs! I can only assume from the look of disgust on his face as his mother shrieked at him to "spit it out" that it didn't taste a lot like the breakfast cereal he thought it was!

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— Sergeant Alan W. Moyer, SE Region
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Boat Launch Entertainment
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Boat activity really picks up during the spring and summer months. Because of this, I spend a lot of time around boat launch areas. Anyone who has boated for any length of time can tell you stories about the crazy things that they have witnessed at launch areas.

Things like launching a boat without the plug in, realizing it, and then the frantic dash back to shore before the boat sinks to the bottom of the lake. Another fun one is watching the people who have absolutely no ability to back a trailer down a ramp. Where else can you get so much quality entertainment for free? In fact, I have long suggested to bored anglers to gather up their equipment and relocate next to a launch ramp, then sit back and enjoy the show.

The following account is of my own personal boat launch fiasco. The time that a chain of seemingly random events and a little bit of bad luck came together to make me the nights entertainment.

I decided to take my wife and son fishing after work one day. I contacted a friend to see if he wanted to accompany us, but he couldn’t because of work. However, he said that his boat was ready to launch and already hooked up to his truck. All that I had to do was pick up his truck, drive to the lake, launch the boat and start fishing. By the time I picked up the truck and boat, it was dark.

I launched the boat flawlessly, parked the truck, made sure I locked the doors, and then walked back to the ramp. As I got closer to the boat, I could see that it was sitting too low in the water. Realizing that I had not checked the plug; I quickly put two and two together and realized that the boat was filling with water.

I immediately implemented plan A by running back to the truck so I could back the trailer under the boat, pull it up the ramp, drain it, put the plug in, then back to fishing. Unfortunately, I discovered that my friend’s key ring did not contain the key that unlocked the doors. The same doors that you may recall I had just locked about two minutes ago.

I quickly transitioned into plan B which basically involved me pulling the boat by hand as far up the launch ramp as I could so it wouldn’t slip below the surface of the water. I managed to accomplish that without further incident. So, aside from my damaged pride and the fact that the boat I was responsible for was now blocking one of the two available launch ramps, no harm done.

I then called my buddy to update him on current events. He called his wife who agreed to bring the key to my location. Since we had some time to kill, I lit a Coleman lantern, set it up and watched as my wife and son started fishing from the dock. After about 60 minutes, I walked up to the parking lot to see if the key had arrived yet.

It was then that my nine year old son decided that he would be able to see better if he moved the lantern to the left a couple of feet. Unfortunately, he learned that Coleman lanterns get very hot after he placed his right hand on top.

After that, the boy was no longer in the mood to fish. We finally got the boat loaded back onto the trailer. By then fishing had lost its appeal. On the way home my son summed it up pretty good when he said, “Dad, fishing from a boat wasn’t near as much fun as I thought it would be.”

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— WCO Scott Opfer, Fayette County
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But my dog is not a good swimmer
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The day began with torrential downpours throughout the county. The skies were still threatening rainfall when I encountered a female in a kayak at a local impoundment.

She did not have a personal flotation device onboard. Her eleven year old son was in another kayak and was not wearing a personal flotation device as required. In addition, he did not possess a personal flotation device.

However, a small dog sitting on the mother’s lap did have its personal flotation device on. The mother received two citations.

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— WCO Albert Colian, Cambria County
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Distant Lands
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The Central Erie District has been vacant of a WCO for a few years now; consequently, WCO Smolko and myself have been spending a lot of time in that district conducting patrols.

After being in Erie County for over 10 years I have come across a number of anglers and boaters from around the country, and most Eastern European block countries coming to Erie, mostly to fish. Now that I’m in the city limits checking boaters and anglers my interaction with people has gone to a whole different level when it comes to meeting people from distant lands.

While out on routine patrols around the City of Erie I have encountered people from the following counties: Bhutan, Nepal, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and of course our neighbors to the north, Canada.

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— WCO Brook Tolbert, Western Erie County
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Passive or Aggressive
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Recently I observed an individual along one of our lakes in the Southeast fishing while wearing boxing gloves on his hands. While the fishing pole was resting on a forked stick, he would punch the air aggressively while bouncing back and forth. He would remove the gloves, reel in the line and check his bait, then resume punching the air again. After several minutes, curiosity got the best of me and not seeing a fishing license displayed, I walked down to question his actions.

He told me his fishing license was up in his car and that he was at the lake for the first time. When asked about the odd combination of fishing rod and boxing gloves, he explained he had just come from his wife’s divorce attorney. I guess the combination of fishing and boxing was his way to calm his nerves and release his frustration at the same time. Enough said.

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— WCO Lee Creyer, Lehigh County
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The Good Father
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It had been raining all day; heavy at times.  The hours on patrol seemed to pass by slowly as most anglers and boaters had opted for the dry conditions of home.  I had encountered no one afield until I noticed a young boy; maybe 10 years old, fishing alone at a public pond.  This pond was adjacent to a country road and had a small pull-off nearby where anglers could park.

Dressed in a t-shirt, shorts and a pair of sneakers this youngster was holding a short fishing pole with a simple close-faced reel.  He didn’t move and appeared to be concentrating intently at a point in the pond where his line disappeared beneath the water’s surface.  It was raining steadily and there was no doubt that he was soaking wet, but not deterred.

There was a car in the parking lot with its windshield wiper blades moving back and forth.  It was positioned in such a way that the operator was facing the boy. 

As I drove alongside the vehicle, I noticed a man behind the wheel.  It was the boy’s father.  Clearly, fishing in the rain was not a passion shared by Dad!  As we chuckled about that, the father told me that his son was passionate about fishing.  “He thinks about nothing else…He just loves it”, he said.

In a flash, my memory transported me back to my own childhood.  As a 12-year old, I was passionate about deer hunting; an interest I acquired early on from friends in the fourth grade.  My Dad spent countless weekend hours in the freezing cold and snow to accompany me in those early years afield.  For four years, until I turned 16 and could legally hunt alone, he braved the cold sitting next to me, wrapped in blankets. 

But, in order to fully appreciate my Dad’s sacrifice, you must understand his background.  He grew up in Brooklyn, New York.  He had never been hunting, never had an interest in hunting, would dare not eat wild game or even try it, and besides a two year stint in the Navy, had never fired a gun!  What I did not, and could not appreciate then was that my Dad’s true passion was not the game, the gun or the hours afield; it was me.

34 years later, I find myself in my Dad’s shoes; a husband and father of two young children.  My Dad who has since passed away had given me the gift of his time.  I am still a passionate deer hunter, but cannot think about it without heart-felt memories of my Dad and the time he spend with me, trying to stay warm, in the woods. 

I turned my attention back to that father in his car, watching his son fishing in the rain.  I told him what my father had done for me years ago and how much I cherish those thoughts.  Although his son may not appreciate it now, he would grow up with fond memories of this rainy day.  I pointed to him and said, “It might seem insignificant now, but you are doing a great thing for your son and he will not forget it!  This is what great Dad’s do for their children”.

The man smiled and said thank you with a look of pride and satisfaction on his face.  I thanked him for reminding me of my own Dad and the things he did for me so many years ago.

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— WCO Jonathan Kay, Butler County
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Hooked on Fishing
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One of the pleasures of working as a Waterways Conservation Officer is having the opportunity to work with kids and teach them the joy of fishing and enjoying the outdoors. Teaching kids how to fish takes a lot of patience and requires help from Mother Nature to be effective. At a Kids Fishing Rodeo outside Reading, PA, while working with inner city kids and the Big Brother Big Sister program we learned that it can also be dangerous as well.

When working around a small pond with lots of kids casting you always have to be mindful of back casts and loose hooks as Waterways Conservation Officer Mark Pisko learned on this day. Officer Pisko turned his back on a young man not realizing he was about to execute the two handed straight over the head cast for distance technique.

The hook embedded itself squarely in the seat of Officer Pisko’s Duty Trousers. Luckily not catching any skin as the young man finished his follow through.

Fortunately for Officer Pisko he had a fellow Officer on scene who is not only quick with a pair of pliers to cut the hook out of his pants, but equally as quick with a cell phone camera to capture this moment.

Officer Pisko
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— WCO Chase D. Rhoades, E. Berks / N. Montgomery
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Bridge Troll
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While on foot patrol during early trout season I observed two people under a bridge at a great fishing spot. I waited for a few minutes and watched to see if they were fishing. They were looking all around the bridge as if they had lost something. However, I did not see any fishing gear.

I approached the bridge to find a man and woman Geocaching. This is an outdoor sporting activity where participants use a (GPS) or mobile device to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. On this occasion, the container was located up high in a small crack between the bridge and the bridge piller.

Being as I was much taller then them, I was asked if I could reach it. After getting the container they thanked me and said “we have found many things playing this game, but never a Bridge Troll”.

I have been called many things in this job, but never a Bridge Troll.

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— WCO Darrin Kephart, S. York County
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Paying it Forward
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In 1990 while fishing along one the trout streams in Washington County, PA, Edward Sloski encountered a man who had arrived at the stream and had forgotten his fishing rod. Ed didn’t know the gentleman, but gave him a rod to use while he was there.

Twenty-four years later Ed was fishing and lost his fishing license. In the mail arrived his license that had been found and returned by that same man.

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— WCO Sean Sauserman, Washington County
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Lifetime Memories
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One of the things that really makes my day is to see or hear of a kid who caught a BIG ONE. This occurred on a day I was stocking the Youghiogheny River tailrace with its first in-season stocking.

Before the state hatchery truck arrived and as I was pulling into the meeting place I was hearing of a kid who caught a big trout. When we came to the stocking stop where I was told the kid was fishing the young boy and his sister were there to help carry some buckets. I asked him if he was the one who caught the big trout, with a big smile on his face he said he was. I said I would stop back after the stocking to see it and take his picture to put on our web page if his parents say it’s ok.

So, after stocking I went back and talked to the boy’s father who said it was ok to take the kids picture. The boy was 9 years old and the Rainbow Trout he caught measured 22 inches. I could see how proud his father was as I told the kid what a nice catch and to get one like that before we stocked was a bonus. The boy’s sister age 11 was also doing well on the catching but nothing in size to beat her brother

It's times like this that make you realize that fishing can make memories that will last a lifetime. I’m sure this family will be talking about this day for years to come.

I can still remember the first big trout I seen caught, I was in my early teens and one of my buddies caught a very large Brown Trout at a lake that was just stocked. That was some forty plus years ago and I wasn’t even the one who caught it but I remember it as though I did.

So, the next time you catch a BIG ONE, by releasing it you may be giving some kid a memory of a lifetime and even better yet getting them hooked on a lifetime of fishing.

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— WCO Daniel McGuire, Southern Somerset County
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Do Your Math
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After a few years living the life of a Waterways Conservation Officer you see about every trick in the book on how to get around the law. I recently came across a group of young men fishing. When asked to produce a fishing license, one of the men told me he didn’t need a fishing license because he was only fifteen years of age. I asked him how old he was, and he insisted he was fifteen years of age.

I talked to his friends for a while and, without hesitation, I turned to the man and asked him how old he was. He said “I just told you, I’m 15!” I then asked him when his date of birth was, and as he thought for a few seconds, I could see he was counting on his fingers behind his back!

When I pointed out that he shouldn’t have to count on his fingers to remember his own date of birth, his friends all laughed and said “We told you he would catch you lying about your age!” As he was signing his citation, he told me that his friends warned him about fishing without a license.

He then asked me how I knew he was not 15. I informed him that I am well trained in detecting deception and often see right through lies…and additionally, most 15 year olds don’t drive cars, chew tobacco or have beards!

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— WCO Brendan Ryan, Northern Bucks County
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Bear Headed
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While on patrol in late spring, WCO Kyler and I were privileged to witness one of those ‘there is no way this is going to happen’ moments in nature. The moment that captured our undivided attention occurred after we had finished patrolling Rock Run. We were entering State Route 973 and heading to another patrol location. We had just started in the direction of our next patrol location when WCO Kyler exclaimed, “Did you see that black bear crossing the road?”

Unfortunately, my attention had been directed to the opposite side of the road, and I missed the opportunity to see the bear. WCO Kyler described the bear as being “good sized”. WCO Kyler pointed me in the direction the bear. We pulled onto a secondary road where we were able to see the bear running towards a house.

Evidently, the bear did not see the seven foot tall, steel corrugated security fence that was around the property and driveway or simply just did not care. As WCO Kyler and I watched in anticipation, we did not even have enough time to say, “There is no way this is going to happen.” The bear was charging at a high rate of speed, directly at the gate across the driveway of the house. In an instant before the inevitable collision, I was able to wonder what the outcome of that meeting would be. I assumed the bear would be thrown back and rerouted on another course of travel or possibly even knocked unconscious.

As it turns out, that particular bear must have had enough weight, velocity, and thickness of skull to knock the gate wide open without even slowing down. It rammed its head into the gate, springing it open, while at the same time using his front paw to further assist in the opening of the gate. The bear never missed a step and continued running into the adjacent woodlands.

Needless to say, it took a moment for WCO Kyler and me to realize what we had just witnessed. Not surprisingly, the first words exchanged between us after a lengthy laugh were, “There is no way that just happened!”

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— WCO Anthony Beers, Clinton / W. Lycoming Counties
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Rattlesnake in the Basement
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While preparing to hitch a ride with WCO Chad McKenrick I received a call informing me of a complaint of a rattlesnake in a church basement. When we arrived at the scene a man explained to us that a three foot rattlesnake was observed 30 feet or so from the church the day before. Then the secretary heard a similar noise the next day in the kitchen area.

We entered the kitchen and heard a faint hissing/rattling sound coming from the cabinets. We searched the cabinets but did not find a rattlesnake. The search then led us to the basement, the hissing/rattling continued.

WCO McKenrick quickly put an end to search as he discovered that the source of the noise was not a pit viper, but a busted water pipe.

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— WCO Dave Kaneski, Northern Wayne County
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