By: Joanne M. Haas/WDNR Bureau of Law Enforcement
Whoosh, there goes another year! What happened in 2017? A lot!
Here is our traditional year-end roundup greeting card to our Warden Wire subscribers. Think of it as a pictorial annual report to you. As is the case every year, there are many more highlights than we have room - or you have time to view. So, we narrowed it to a few highlights from the big, big pile of memories from your Wis. Department of Natural Resources' conservation wardens who worked with you to protect the state's natural resources and the people -- just like you -- who enjoy those resources.
But first, let's start with our ongoing holiday season. That's Warden Amanda Kretschmer of Sauk County with Cecelia Wilson, 7, as the pair shopped for candles at the Baraboo Wal-Mart as part of the Baraboo Community Heroes gift program. Warden Amanda is one of roughly 20 wardens statewide who participate in similar local Shop with a Cop programs that link first responders with local families. These holiday community programs are annual favorites with the wardens who say the shopping trips with the kids to help their families is what the holidays and public service are all about.
And here's Warden Bryan Harrenstein enjoying his Shop with a Cop outing. Warden Brian is based in the DNR offices in Merrill.
January: Wing Wrap
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 Retrievers named Grizzly and Vixen. Grizzly and Vixen 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 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. If this is familiar to you, it was our lead item in our early winter Warden Wire roundup and was a real favorite of many! Worth a repeat!
February: Wisconsin winters shift patrol paths to snow and ice!
Warden Scott Thiede of Eau Claire gives a thumbs up before hitting the snowmobile to be ready to assist anyone in need of a warden's help during a day on the sleds.
This also is the time of year when more people are on the ice....
Warden Nick Miofsky of Fond du Lac spent a big chunk of his early February on the ice with the families and groups who enjoy ice fishing - and gearing up for sturgeon spearing season on the mighty Lake Winnebago system.
A longtime tradition in Wisconsin, the spear season is celebrated by generations as they employ their patience to get a sturgeon - known as the dinosaurs of fish world. It is common to find big groups of friends, families and relatives, like this one chatting with Warden Nick, working together to slice the ice and prepare their ice shanty spot for the sturgeon season.
Not everyone is on the ice in February. Some prefer the woods!
Here is Warden Jake Cross talking about rabbit hunting with Ricky Greene of Janesville. Looks like stew time!
Or, make that fish fry!
Here is Warden Dale Hochhausen delivering about 800 panfish to the St. Elizabeth Church in Holmen. The fish were confiscated during an illegal overbagging case investigated by the wardens. The panfish was used by the church at their annual fund raising game feed. This non-profit group used the money for some of the church-involved programs including the local food pantry, community events and youth programs.
March: Train with partners; Learn with mentors
The wardens incessantly assess their skills to make sure they are ready for whatever happens on duty. They are always on the lookout for opportunities to train and to learn from real-life experiences and insights from partner agencies.
In this photo, wardens teamed with several agencies from local to federal levels to train for the responses needed to a simulated airliner crash offshore in Lake Michigan. The wardens' role in the emergency training exercise was to rescue scenario victims from the cold water and from life boards. The hope is this emergency never happens, but if it does, the wardens are ready.
Warden Jonathan Kaiser had a large, enthusiastic group for his late March Learn to Hunt Turkey field day in Waupaca. Twenty-nine hunters of all ages participated, thanks to their mentors and local coordinators. Learn to Hunt programs for all ages are held statewide in all seasons - thanks to tremendous teamwork with local organizations and dedicated volunteers.
April: Spring into a new career (Note: the bureau is about to launch an application process to hire up to 28 part-time wardens!)
What's it like to be warden and how do I become one? That's the big two-part question wardens often hear from those looking to start careers and those looking to change careers. The Warden Recruitment Committee holds a career day every year to give those interested in joining the warden service a chance to hear and to ask their questions of active wardens. The event moves around the state and this year's was in Madison. Attendees drove from throughout the state, as well as from out of state. Wardens presented to 73 attendees on topics including the hiring process, training process, duties and personal life impacts. Attendees also had a chance to meet one-on-one with wardens. Events like these help wardens connect with the community to share the warden story and to inspire future generations of conservation wardens. If you are among those wondering about this worthwhile career, go to dnr.wi.gov and search "recruit wardens."
May: Hotline-warden team saves sturgeon; honoring the fallen
Hotline Dispatcher Libby Pearson's rapid-fire gathering and delivery of information about an illegally taken sturgeon was put in play immediately by Warden Darren Kuhn, left, who intercepted the big fish and the suspect just as the end was in play. "The sturgeon was literally lying across the kitchen counter over the sink," Warden Darren said, describing the scene he came upon "as they (suspect) were about to gut the sturgeon in the kitchen sink." Warden Darren took the time to thank Dispatcher Libby for "obtaining excellent background information" and getting to him lightning quick, enabling him to get to the residence in Brown County. "Remarkably I was able to get the sturgeon back to the Fox River where, after a bit, it swam away to live another day."
As a cool May rain gently fell, the DNR wardens and other Wisconsin law enforcement officers gathered for a somber noon ceremony to honor officers killed in the line of duty. DNR Warden Lt. Jeremy Peery of Eau Claire, center between two officers all with plastic-covered hats, commanded the special honor guard whose member officers from several agencies including the DNR wardens, silently patrolled the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial in shifts from 5 a.m. until the start of the 27th annual outdoor ceremony at the northeast corner of the Wisconsin State Capitol Square. "Never alone, post never ends," Lt. Peery said loudly when he officially ended the final two-officer patrol before an audience of officers, families and friends. The annual event stems from an action by President John F. Kennedy who in 1962 designated May 15 as the National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week as National Police week in special recognition of those who lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.
June: The seagull, the hiker and the sailboat
Wisconsin boasts outdoor fun opportunities no matter the season and no matter the month. And the much loved and short season of summer makes for busy days for wardens statewide. Here are three short stories that give you a sense of the kinds of calls that wardens handle day in and day out.
Warden Boyd Richter of Janesville received a call from a Milton police officer who requested help with a seagull that had a fishing lure stuck in its beak and foot and could not fly. Warden Richter responded and helped with the removal and successful release of the seagull. Nearby workers thanked the officers for their quick responses.
Warden Henry Bauman of Madison assisted Merrimac and Baraboo emergency response crews with locating and assisting an elderly ill hiker inn need of assistance off a Devil's Lake State Park bluff trail.
Wardens Jake Donar and Deputy Nathan Degroff, both of Madison, responded to Lake Mendota regarding a report of a sailboat that lost two occupants. The water was extremely rough on this day making navigating to the area very difficult. Both occupants were safely recovered.
LET'S RUN! Wardens Paul Hartrick and Ben Treml, Retired DNR Regional Wildlife Biologist/ Deputy Warden Tom Bahti and Warden Jonathan Kaiser, left to right in photo, participated in the Northeast Region Torch Run from Green Bay to Waupaca. Wardens biked and ran lengths for Special Olympics. The event was held June 9-11. Let's give Warden Jonathan more points for running in gear. Way to move for a great cause: Teamwork strikes again!
July: Keeping the waters safe & rescuing a couple in the midst of a dangerous storm net 'top cop' honors
Beer on board? Think twice. That's what the wardens will tell all boaters.
One weekend every year where this is the theme nationwide is Operation Dry Water. DNR wardens & local boat patrols are out spreading education among the boaters, while removing the ones who are impaired and pose a danger to others. Warden Mike Sealander ran into this very happy bunch during his patrols on Little Germain Lake in Vilas County. The festive group was very happy to show Warden Mike that they had a designated - and sober - boat operator for the tiki party barge. That's the way to celebrate Wisconsin's summers.
During a dangerous storm on Lake Winnebago early this summer, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Warden Tom Sturdivant and DNR Ranger Jeff Nieling braved treacherous waters to save a couple stranded on a disabled boat. With little regard to their own safety, Warden Sturdivant and Ranger Nieling continued their search even when the waves threatened to submerge their boat. The details of their heroic rescue are found below on the link. The story serves as the Top Cops recognition from the Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. Warden Wire reprinted the story on the link with permission from the Wisconsin Department of Justice which announced the honor on October 5. Read it here: /topic/WardenWire/WardenWire_Lookup.asp?id=462
August: COPS camp to help the youngest of survivors
One of the favorite deployments of the DNR wardens is the annual national camp for kids sponsored by COPS - Concerns of Police Survivors.
DNR conservation wardens and their law enforcement partners from other agencies statewide and beyond travel to the camp's Wisconsin base every August. Children from across the country whose law enforcement officer/parents have been killed while on duty are welcomed at the camp's waterfront site.
September: Helping the physically challenged have their hunts, too
The wardens always look forward to helping someone who hasn't been able to hunt in a while due to a physical change or lifelong challenge. Here is Warden Jonathan Kaiser with Ken Sylvester, a 61-year-old hunter from Weyauwega who uses a wheelchair due to injuries from a motorcycle accident. Warden Kaiser partnered with a local landowner who generously donated access to his property to make this hunt happen. Warden Kaiser also reached out to Niemuth's Steak and Chop Shop in Waupaca and the business agreed to provide butchering services. Ken hasn't been able to hunt much because he has not had anyone to assist him. In fact, Ken says the last time he harvested a deer was 8 years ago, when he hunted at a disabled hunt at Hartman Creek State Park. But that changed on September 9 when Ken and Lt. Warden Ted Dremel went hunting thanks to the coordination efforts of Warden Jonathan. Warden Jonathan says after Ken got his deer, he was so excited he could hardly speak.
October: Teamwork tracks timber theft, lost hunters
Wardens enjoy partnerships with local agencies on all sorts of cases from thefts from the community to missing members of that community.
In one case, Warden Amanda Kretschmer of Wisconsin Dells received a complaint of possible timber theft case on private property. Through investigation it was determined an individual had been cutting down trees and using some of the trees for firewood on the property for a few years. She teamed with DNR Forester Paul Kloppenberg on the investigation that lead to enforcement action.
Then, there was the day when local first responders called Wardens Brad Dahlquist of Crandon and Nick King to help find two missing hunters. The hunters were checking trail cameras on forest service land west of Alvin, got turned around, and were unsure how to reach their vehicle. First responders were able to locate the hunters on the opposite side of a river. And it was Warden King who was able to reach the hunters by boat, and return them to safety without incident.
November: Hunting is not just about deer
November is all about the 9-day gun-deer season. Wardens spend a lot of time preparing so they can help everyone else prepare. But the season is about more than deer. These three snippets from the warden team based in Ashland shows the surprises the season brings.
Map this! Wardens Lynna Gurnoe, Amie Egstad, Matthew Koshollek and Stacia Macy, joined wardens from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and several Bayfield County Sheriff deputies to find a lost hunter in the Chequamegon National Forest. The hunter was last seen at approximately 8:30 a.m. and it was 5 p.m. when the call came in. Bayfield County utilized LifeLink helicopter and staff to find a fire within the search area. Wardens Egstad and Macy went in on foot and found the lost male alive and well. The officers escorted the male out of the woods and followed up with maps for the male to return the next day with assistance to retrieve a buck he had shot.
Talk about staying with a trail! Wardens Lynna Gurnoe, Adam Stennett and Amie Egstad again worked with several Bayfield County Sheriff deputies and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission wardens on another call of a lost hunter. In this case, Warden Stennett used his ATV and was able to find the hunter who was still trailing a deer he had shot 5 hours prior.
Stapled to a search! Wardens Lynna Gurnoe and Amie Egstad responded to a call of a hunter who had been gutting a deer when he sliced through his pants, cutting his leg and narrowly missing his femoral artery. The hunter was able to stabilize bleeding utilizing a sock and shoe lace. The hunter drove his vehicle to a black top road and contacted other hunters for assistance. Wardens attempted to locate the deer for the hunter but were unable to find the location. The hunter was back out with his dad a few hours later after getting "staples" in his leg to go retrieve his buck, which they did find safe and sound.
Warden Mike Nice of Richland Center helped connect hunters who had extra deer with people in the community wanting deer. Mike was able to get 10 deer to people that wanted deer. Many of these people were older current and former hunters. Some of the landowners willingly harvested extra antlerless deer for these people they otherwise would not have shot.
Warden Brad Peterson of Ellsworth received a call late on the last day of the gun-deer season regarding a person who reported a creature was in her garage -- and she was in need of some help. Peterson arrived to find an opossum tucked under a work bench. The caller held a light on the opossum and Warden Peterson was able to grab it by the tail, place it into a bucket and later released it into more suitable habitat.
December: Wardens pitch in for communities
DNR warden partners with local businesses, pantries & collect 3,000 gallons of donated food for those in need
DNR Conservation Warden Mike Katzenberg in partnership with several local businesses and food pantries launched the 'Hunt Off Hunger' holiday food drive to help residents in his service territory this 2017 holiday season.
Residents left their non-perishable food donations in barrels or other displays marked by the Hunt Off Hunger poster. Recipients of the donated food included St. Andrew's Food Pantry, Walworth Food Pantry,Elkhorn Food Pantry, Open Arms Food Pantry, Elkhorn Food Pantry, East Troy Food Pantry and the Waukesha Salvation Army.
The businesses that participated in the food collection drive were:
Warden Tom Sturdivant, left, and Lt. Chris Shea teamed to spend a December Saturday at Appleton's Scheels Sporting Store ringing the red kettle bell to help local families in need and to greet the public. The Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign has been the staple of the holiday season for more than 100 years in the Fox Cities.
Warden Mike Katzenberg and Smokey Bear were in the Lake Geneva Christmas Parade. Nearly 5,000 enjoyed the event and Warden Mike reports a main attraction for many - including him - was getting a picture with Smokey!
Warden Mike Sealander sends this Vilas County sunset photo after an early winter snowfall in Vilas County to wish Warden Wire subscribers a safe, happy 2018 with plenty of time to enjoy Wisconsin's great outdoors.
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.