92 Col. Joel Wilkinson (ret.) – Maine – Part I

Joel Wilkinson spent 28 years serving the state of Maine, including twelve years as Colonel of the Maine Warden Service. Now retired, Col. Wilkinson sits down with Wayne to reflect on an extraordinary career that began when he was just a teen. In this episode, we discuss his early years as a game warden, including an intense turn in covert operations that resulted in some of the agency’s most significant prosecutions of the time.

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Here’s what we discuss:

  • Maine has used the term ‘game warden’ since 1880
  • No time to hunt or fish.
  • Learned about the outdoors from a girlfriend’s father
  • Started riding with game wardens at 16
  • Became a deputy warden at 19
  • Tried to sneak in a little early
  • “This is all I wanted to do.”
  • 2000 applicants, few positions
  • Tried appealing to the Colonel
  • Joined a local police department to gain experience
  • Trained with many Maine wardens at the academy
  • Finally hired by Maine Warden Service at 22
  • No warden in his area for 11 years
  • Caught first night hunter eight days after graduating
  • Moving to a new area, population: 4
  • Chris Simmons becomes the boss… and moves in across the road
  • A memorable Thanksgiving night
  • Shifting into covert investigations
  • A big case, but some unnerving moments
  • Targets often under the influence of alcohol and drugs
  • Seeing the other side
  • “It changed how we did business.”
  • Making Captain at 32
  • Learned many administrative skills
  • The Maine whitewater rafting industry
  • Many companies offer rafting, hiking, and rock climbing

Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Research / Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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91 Sean Spencer – Utah

Sean Spencer is a Sergeant with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. After 14 years patrolling in some of the most remote and most populous areas of the Beehive State, he’s dealt with a wide variety of people, wildlife, and problems. In this episode from the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association conference (NAWEOA) in Tennessee, he and our hosts discuss planning for next year’s conference, some of his memorable experiences, and much more!

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Here’s what we discuss:

  • Busy organizing NAWEOA 2023
  • Plan extra time to see the state
  • The “Mighty Five” national parks
  • First encounter with a game warden
  • Discovered the outdoors as a teen in Texas
  • Importance of balancing home and work life
  • Moving from a remote district to an urban one
  • Prime hunting only 30 minutes from home
  • Public safety vs. preservation
  • A memorable baiting case
  • Not every case results in a conviction
  • Growing population numbers create new challenges

Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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90 Josh Landrum – Tennessee

Josh Landrum is a Nashville-based Boating Officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Besides receiving multiple honors for his tireless efforts to combat impaired boating, he has also served on the board of the Tennessee Wildlife Officers Association for the past decade, and most recently as president. This year, Josh and his fellow officers hosted the annual North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association (NAWEOA) conference, where Wayne and John caught up with him for a chat.  

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International Wildlife Crimestoppers

Here’s what we discuss:

  • Hosting NAWEOA 2022
  • Learning, training, and networking at NAWEOA
  • Encouraging the younger generation of game wardens to attend
  • A love of fishing led to a career in wildlife management
  • An urban game warden
  • Some of the largest deer in the state
  • Working to eliminate impaired boating
  • You never know who you’ll meet
  • Enjoying all that Nashville has to offer
  • NAWEOA 2023: Utah

Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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89 Ty Runyan – Oklahoma

Ty Runyan is a state game warden with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Besides being a rancher, driving instructor, former K9 handler and sometimes-snake wrangler, he may be best known for his TikTok presence. Ty’s lighthearted, interesting, and educational short videos have attracted more than 175,000 followers. In this episode, he and Wayne discuss the value of social media as an outreach and recruitment tool, and share some exciting stories from the field.

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Here’s what we discuss:

  • Ty gives a passerby some advice
  • Everyone knows where the game warden lives
  • A bit about Ty’s background
  • Social media as an outreach tool
  • An accidental TikTokker
  • Getting Departmental approval
  • Taking the bad with the good
  • Recruitment and legal questions from everywhere
  • Using the platform to change perceptions
  • Comedy helps to defuse situations
  • Ty’s rodeo adventures
  • Few game wardens employing TikTok – so far
  • “It’s amazing what people will put on social media”
  • Helping other states make cases
  • Conservation efforts have helped restore declining populations
  • Snakes!
  • A family of teachers
  • Spotlighting poachers: right place, right time
  • Larger platform has helped engage future game wardens

Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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88 Terry Hodges – Warden Force

Award winning author Terry Hodges is the creator of the popular Warden Force series of short stories, the true adventures of game wardens and the wildlife-destroying outlaws they pursue. Having been a California Fish & Game warden himself for over three decades, Terry writes with the special authority found only among those who have worn a badge on behalf of wildlife. In this episode, he shares some compelling – and often comical – stories of the legendary game warden who would become not only a mentor, but also the inspiration for the book that would launch a surprising new career.

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Here’s what we discuss:

  • Documenting history
  • The many tales of Ol’ Sabertooth
  • The first book
  • Learning to self-publish
  • Inventing an alter ego
  • Staying in the field after promotion
  • Frenchy’s last ride
  • Goose poaching in rice country
  • Snake gets sapped
  • Surprising a poacher deep in the woods
  • Sometimes moonshiners made good allies
  • Poacher escapes, but leaves Mercer a gift
  • Nine collections of short stories
  • From the latest collection: Death on Snake Mountain
  • Where to find the Warden Force series
  • In the works: two new books of Sabertooth stories

Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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W06 Moose with Lee Kantar

Lee Kantar is man with moose on his mind. Whether he’s conducting aerial population surveys by helicopter, attaching specially adapted tracking collars, or racing to the scene of a mortality to conduct a field necropsy, Maine’s official state moose biologist is dedicated to the health and survival of the largest herbivore in the North Woods. Throughout the last decade, he has been integral to building a moose management program that’s been described as one of the most modern and comprehensive in the US.  

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Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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84 Bob Farrell – Hawai’i

Bob Farrell is a former fish and wildlife enforcement officer with more than 30 years of maritime experience in multiple environments from Alaska to Hawai’i. After a successful career with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife – culminating in serving as Assistant Chief – Bob figured he’d return to his home state of Hawai’i to wind down his career as an active game warden in the field, but fate soon intervened, and he once again found himself in a leadership position. Today, he continues his mission to strengthen conservation law enforcement through consultation and training all over the world.

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Here’s what we discuss:

  • Involved in wildlife conservation post-retirement
  • Enforcement is sometimes an afterthought
  • Earliest memories are on the water
  • “I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau when I grew up.”
  • NOAA fisheries observer aboard a Korean trawler in Alaska
  • Six years fishing the Bering Sea
  • Operating boats for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife
  • Joined CDFW as a dive instructor
  • Accepted as a reserve warden
  • Warden-centric TV programs helped recruitment
  • Promotions are nice, but being an active warden is more fun
  • Bob delayed promotion to join a major task force operation
  • Moved to Hawai’i to get back into the field, but then…
  • “At the end of the day, I was obligated.”
  • Helping enact progressive change
  • Building skills from the ground up
  • Secured funding for the first DOCARE academy
  • Developing a Field Training Officer program
  • Established the state’s first DLNR Officer of the Year award
  • Sending officers to NACLEC
  • “Now we’re the tip of the spear.”
  • Working nights wasn’t typical
  • Caught spotlighters the first night
  • Protect cultural as well as natural resources
  • Retirement allows freedom to advocate for policy and legislation
  • The importance of listening to different perspectives
  • We can effect change
  • Bob’s advice for potential game wardens

Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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W03 Snowshoe Hare with Alexej Sirén

In this episode of Warden’s Watch WILD, we meet Alexej Sirén, a Maine-based biologist and postdoctoral researcher, and arguably an authority on many large and small mammals in the northeastern US.  In this episode, Alexej discusses his work studying the snowshoe hare, including how their range and numbers affect a surprising variety of plants and animals, and the specific challenges climate change has created for the population.

Read more about Alexej’s work with snowshoe hares here: NH Wildlife Journal – Mad as a March Hare

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Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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83 Jonathan Demler – New Hampshire

In this episode, Wayne sits down with New Hampshire Conservation Officer Jonathan Demler. A highly decorated US Army veteran, Demler and his family moved to New Hampshire eight years ago when he joined Fish & Game after a distinguished military career which included three tours in Afghanistan.  Listen as Jon describes what led him to a career in the outdoors, how his experience in the armed forces has contributed to his success at Fish & Game, and in a Warden’s Watch first, answers questions from our Patreon members.

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Here’s what we discuss:

  • Appearing on North Woods Law: quality over quantity
  • Balancing work and family
  • Transition from military life
  • “A little bit of luck, but a lot of perseverance.”
  • Coming to New Hampshire
  • The problem solvers
  • Changes in US military focus
  • Experience in Afghanistan helped prepare for mountains of NH
  • Do COs need to periodically requalify with firearms?
  • Dealing with sick and injured animals
  • Tough days
  • Not all wildlife rescues are successful
  • Every day can hold a surprise
  • The most gratifying part of the job
  • Working hours can be flexible
  • The importance of community

Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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W02 Canada Lynx with Jill Kilborn

Warden’s Watch WILD is back with wildlife biologist Jill Kilborn discussing her work studying the elusive Canada lynx. At about three feet long and anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds, Canada lynx are at least twice the size of the average house cat. Often recognized by their pointed ears and large, furry paws, which help them travel over deep snow and leave a distinctive “ice cream cone” print, Canada lynx are considered an endangered species in New Hampshire, but biologists have been taking steps to ensure a healthy and successful population, and it looks like their efforts are paying off.

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Credits

Hosts: Wayne Saunders and John Nores

Producer: Jay Ammann

Art & Design: Ashley Hannett

Content Coordinator: Stacey DesRoches

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