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A Thanks to Colorado Wildlife Officers and Rangers

by: Ben Swigle 6/7/2013

Fort Collins can be identified nationally by a variety of flagships including Colorado State University, a number of breweries, and the Cache la Poudre River. Most would argue Peyton Manning and Troy Tulowitzki are the respective faces of Denver’s professional football and baseball franchises. What about Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW)? The answer is certainly not a CPW fishery biologist.

The District Wildlife Manager (DWM) is the primary "public face" of CPW and the person the public is most likely to meet and work with. Today’s DWM is the game warden of yesteryear and a whole lot more. DWMs live in the communities where they work.

They enforce the laws and manage wildlife in the field, but also work with school kids, deal with human-wildlife conflicts, make presentations to groups, assist biologists with fish and wildlife surveys, offer customer service and get involved in their communities in many ways.

I had the pleasure assisting a local DWM enforce fishing regulations a few weeks ago in Loveland and Longmont. First stop was Lon Hagler Reservoir and Lake Loveland followed by visits to McIntosh Reservoir, Golden Ponds, and McCalls Lake in Longmont.

Making shoreline angler contacts was more complex than I imagined. With nearly 25 individual anglers fishing McCall’s Lake at the time we arrived, the wildlife officer explained that a few minutes of recording angler observations with binoculars or a spotting scope prior to approaching the lake is needed to insure that the contacts will be safe and efficient. Often times on seeing the officer approach violators will attempt to hide illegal fish, their equipment or even try to sneak away to avoid contact. As we approached the lake, the officer carefully watched for suspicious behavior. My primary point being is that none of the anglers was aware of our presence despite the broad view at this particular water.

The resulting angler contacts were encouraging; 19 of the 21 anglers contacted possessed a valid fishing license. Two individuals had not purchased a 2013 license and denied they were actually fishing. Explaining the observations previously collected, the anglers finally admitted they had been fishing and were issued citations.

During contacts, DWMs are not just enforcing laws, as they record important biological information on the fishery, and also provide a wealth of information to the angler.

Each of Colorado’s 200 wildlife officers is a graduate from an accredited college or university with a bachelor's degree in the field of natural resources. The majority of DWMs complete a degree program at CSU. Following a rigorous testing process, a small group of trainees are chosen each fall to complete a full year of formal training with CPW including POST certification which is required of all law enforcement officers in Colorado. Finally, DWMs are certified peace officers in the State of Colorado and assigned to an open district. A small portion of folks may have a negative opinion of law enforcement in general. With 8 years of a close relationships will several wildlife officers and park rangers I have always come away with nothing but respect for the long hours each puts in and the exceptional skill each officer possesses. Whether you’re an angler, hunters, or just a fan of Colorado’s natural resources, go ahead and hug a wildlife officer!

Should this career choice interest you here is some more information:

Blog content © Ben Swigle
Member comments
panfishin, CO   6/7/2013 4:27:09 PM
i think the second picture is violating your possession limit of trout, lol, good read. pretty cool getting to hear how you approach a lake.
Raskal, CO   6/7/2013 4:45:02 PM
A very unappreciated group of people. The majority that I have met are fine people and are a very underused source of information that can be very useful to hunters and fishermen. Here's my Thank You to them!
Rsrecurvehunter, CO   6/7/2013 5:22:44 PM
That's awesome. I love our wardens and they're always willing to help. I enjoy the tv shows and even reading books with real life stories, a ride along would be sweet!
ADub TT, CO   6/7/2013 9:14:07 PM
Great 411 as usual Swigs, keep it coming man! A-Dub
pikeNcolorado, CO   6/8/2013 7:45:47 AM
Thanks for all the hard work and time you guys put in.
Coyute, CO   6/8/2013 8:41:21 AM
Right on!
Can2, CO   6/11/2013 5:54:51 AM
I have a close personal relationship with one member of the 200, the dedication that is exhibited by all DWM's is real, and equal to all other law enforcement, fire department, and military service. Thank you to each and everyone.
JKaboom, CO   6/13/2013 6:44:19 PM
The vast majority of wildlife officers I encounter are very nice, helpful, dedicated people. Thank you all :)
Ben Swigle
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