By: Joanne M. Haas/DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement
The Wisconsin DNR Conservation Wardens were on the trails, on the ice, in the woods and always helping others during the early months of the new year. Here are just a few highlights from what has been a race-pace 2017.
Warden Ben Mott, who serves Waushara County, got a call on January 24 about a bald eagle struck by a car traveling west of Wautoma. Helping injured wildlife is nothing new to the wardens - and definitely not Warden Ben, who is known on social media as the warden with Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named Grizzly. Grizzly stayed home while Warden Ben answered the emergency call to help the injured eagle. Warden Ben worked with local experts to stabilize the impressive bird and help wrap its damaged wing. The eagle then was taken to the raptor rehabilitator experts at the Raptor Education Group, Inc., in Antigo. It's a great example of wardens working with the community and partners to get the job done.
Missy: The Canine Harry Houdini
Warden Jason Higgins' first dog rescue starts with a mystery and ends with meat. Missy is either a four-legged miracle, an escape artist or a cat in German shepherd's clothing down to eight lives. Whatever she is, she is a survivor and a first for Warden Jason of Oshkosh. This story started February 9 when the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office responded to an 11:30 p.m. call for emergency response to Lake Winnebago, near the mouth of the Fox River in Oshkosh.
A 52-year-old man was operating a vehicle that broke through the ice. The man was able to get out of the vehicle, and then out of the water to yell for help. But, the sad reality that sunk in was Missy, the man's dog, literally was sunk -- likely drowned in the vehicle that went ker plunk in the icy waters. However, the next day, Friday, while Warden Jason was on Lake Winnebago checking in with sturgeon spearfishers prepping for the Saturday sturgeon opener, the sheriff's office called. "They said, 'we think the dog from last night is still alive... and on the ice.' They were guessing," Warden Jason said. So Warden Jason drove to the area and sure enough, there was the dog. She was lying on the ice, about 400 yards from where her owner's vehicle broke through the ice about 12 hours earlier. As Warden Jason approached the canine in his truck, Missy jumped up and took off. "She didn't want anything to do with humans." Well, who could blame her? Would you want to get in a vehicle on the ice again?
As she ran toward the mouth of the Fox River, the Oshkosh Fire Department showed up with its air boat just in time and forced her away from the river and back on the lake. That's when Warden Jason moved in, tried to get her to stop while standing on the ice near his truck. But she darted right by him - leaving a trail of bloody paw prints. He got back in his truck and maneuvered a path with his truck that was just close enough so he could talk to her in calming tones, trying to get her to slow down. But she was not going to stop. That's when he decided to let some meat do the talking.
"So I dangled a beef stick." And she stopped with her first whiff of the meaty scent. "I opened the truck door and she got in," he said. Sitting in the front seat of his heated warden truck, the still-wet dog that cheated death enjoyed the beef treat. "She had been out there for 12 or 13 hours." It must have felt good to sit down on a padded seat in a heated truck. Missy is home these days, and her cracked toenails have long healed. How Missy made it out of that vehicle in the lake remains a mystery. But, the quick thinking of Warden Jason with a timely assist from the local fire fighters turned this potential tragedy into a tasty good ending for all.
Confiscated fish turns into help for many
Warden Dale Hochhausen, of the always-busy Mississippi River Warden Team, concluded his case involving a large overbagging of panfish by attending a sentencing hearing earlier this year.
The case started late last year when the suspect had been arrested for overbagging violations and 2,572 panfish had been seized from the suspect's residence. Fines for the violations totaled close to $25,000. The person had a history of fishing violations and had been cited eight times since 1989. The suspect's fishing privileges had been previously revoked on two separate occasions.
For this case, the judge ordered 12 years revocation of person's fishing privileges and confiscation of the person's boat, motor and freezers. The person was fined a total of $4,803. So, the question the wardens often get is what happens to the confiscated fish in cases like this? What happen to the confiscated fish when an individual breaks the laws and illegally harvests the natural resources from other law-abiding residents? Read on for that answer!
Here are two places where the illegally bagged fish is providing nutrition to those in need!
If you guessed the guy in the uniform as Warden Dale Hochhausen, you guessed correctly! Here's Warden Dale dropping off about 800 of the panfish for the St. Elizabeth's Sportsmen Night & Wild Game Feed that was held at the area's American Legion. The nonprofit sport group, represented by some members in this photo, used part of the proceeds from the church's annual feed for the Holmen church's programs including the local food pantry, community and youth programs. The rest of the fish was taken to other non-profit groups in the area. Talk about turning a wrong into lots of delicious rights to help many!
Here are Lt. Jeremy Peery, left, Warden Kevin Christorf, right, with manager Lois Salinas of the nonprofit Community Table in Eau Claire. The two wardens, who serve the Lower Chippewa Warden Team, recently delivered 500 pounds of donated processed salmon and panfish fillets to the facility.
Warden Jeremy says the donation is part of the state policy when it comes to donations of confiscated fish. This fish also came from an overbagging case. The wardens say it means a lot to be able to give back to the public what is theirs. Manager Lois says the fish will make for many nutritious meals for those area residents who are in need. Kudos! Time for Friday fish fry!
Teamwork -- Patrol Training!
Recreational Safety Wardens (RSWs) led a two-day snowmobile patrol training for county patrol officers at the Langlade County Fairgrounds in Antigo. RSW Heather Gottschalk coordinated the training with assistance from RSW Jeremy Cords. RSWs Mark Little and Catherina Nooyen, Snowmobile Administrator Gary Eddy and Wardens Randy Dunkel, Randy Dunkel, Bryan Harrenstein and Tim Otto also helped teach.
Top photo: Officers line up for evening patrol training. Left photo; RSW Heather Gottschalk briefs wardens. Right photo: RSW Gottschalk fields questions.
Aim for spring
In late March, Wardens Nick Wallor, Ryan Caputo, Martin Stone and Catherina Nooyen returned to help at one of their favorites - Grant County Outdoor Skills Day. This year, more than 600 attended to join in an active day of outdoor and conservation learning and plain fun! Above right is Warden Nick helping a young archer, and above left is Warden Ryan having some fun as he photo-bombs a talented trio!
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay report information to conservation wardens.