By: Joanne M. Haas/DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement
It was a year of wildlife, wild life and life. Working with the public, the DNR conservation wardens were in the thick of it! Here is our annual year-end greeting card. As is the case every year, there are many more highlights than we have room. Consider this a small third annual sampling from the big pile of memories from 2016 as the wardens fulfilled the agency mission with special attention to public safety and resource protection.
When the citizens of Barron County's Cumberland first spotted the large bird stranded on the ice, they knew who to call - DNR Conservation Warden Phil Dorn.
Warden Phil already was out on calls that January morning, but kept his eyes peeled for what the callers described a goose. But after his first look, he knew that wasn’t a goose. That was a 15-pound trumpeter swan.
"I found it standing on the ice on the little lake in downtown Cumberland... This bird may have just kept swimming down the chain of lakes until … he got to the last lake to freeze over in Barron County.”
Warden Phil tapped his 100-yard dash running skills to outrun and then to gently grab the big bird, described by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the majestic largest swan in the world and the largest waterfowl in North America. A local volunteer took the injured swan to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota at Minneapolis-St. Paul. "I get a lot of calls about wildlife," Warden Phil said that day. "I think every warden does."
And that's no swan song.
February: Warden’s sure grip saves ice fisher
Sandy calls it divine intervention. Her husband Harold calls it a real life lesson not to trust the ice thickness reports he reads on his computer.
DNR Conservation Warden Dale Hochhausen of La Crosse County calls it no big deal because anyone would have done it. Not necessarily.
And new Warden Trevor Tracey said his first day working with Warden Dale in the field was one for the memory books!
Whatever you decide this episode was, one thing is indisputable: Warden Dale's rescue of veteran ice fisher Harold from the icy Mississippi River off a Vernon County boat landing was a case of incredibly perfect timing involving a skilled warden and a calm angler. And as far as ice rescues are concerned, this one was pretty speedy.
Angler Harold decided to go fishing at one of his usual local spots. Wife Sandy drove him to the spot where the ice report was 14 inches thick -- and the fish were biting! "A lot of people were out there," he said that day. Sandy even saw a four-wheeler driving out just as they arrived, using the same path her husband was about to walk.
Harold said his balance isn't so great any more due to Parkinson's disease. So his concern was not breaking through the ice that day - it was falling on the ice. "The ice was very rough," he said. "I was just going out 100 yards." That proved too far when he hit an unexpected patch of thin ice. And in he went.
Warden Trevor saw Harold break through. "I told him I was a state warden and I was going to help him," Warden Trevor said. "I told him to stay calm and keep his arms out on the ice like an airplane." Warden Trevor also made sure other ice fishers, who wanted to help, stayed back for their safety, too. And he dashed back to his truck for more equipment just as Warden Dale arrived and saw the emergency unfolding.
Meanwhile, after Sandy dropped off Harold, she moved her vehicle to another area where she couldn't see him. But suddenly she did see a warden running. "I knew something had happened," she said. She moved her vehicle and saw Harold in the water, holding onto the ice. "I called my pastor and started a prayer chain."
Sandy's own health issues prevented her from getting out of the vehicle to physically assist, so she called on her friends to get a spiritual chain of help out to Harold.
Warden Dale went into his truck's stash of emergency gear and grabbed his throwable life jacket, spud bar and rope. (Items most wardens carry for rescue purposes.) Warden Dale served this county for years and knew there was a channel along the shoreline that causes the ice to be thinner -- right where Harold had fallen in.
Warden Dale worked his way close to Harold's location while using his spud bar to constantly check the ice. "When I got near (Harold), I tied a loop around the end of the rope, hoping I could get the rope under his arms." Warden Dale asked Harold to life his arms to get the rope. But Harold said letting go of the ice was not something he really wanted to do at that moment.
"So, I thought, maybe I can get close enough to pull him out of the hole," Warden Dale said. A quick ice check with his spud bar confirmed he could take another step closer. "I reached over, grabbed the back of his parka and pulled him out. (Harold) came out fairly easily."
After evaluations by emergency workers standing by to help the pretty cold Harold, the couple was on their way home for dry clothes and hot soup!
March & April: Form a club & meet your buddies outside!
Warden Dave Youngquist, far left in photo, joined efforts with two science teachers and the principal of River Valley Middle School to form the River Valley Outdoor Adventure Klub (RVOAK) for middle school students of the consolidated school district based in Spring Green. Here's the group at their inaugural event -- ice fishing. "We had a good fire, hot chocolate and hot dogs for new anglers," Warden Dave said.
Warden Ted Dremel says 28 new hunters and mentors participated in the Waupaca Learn to Hunt Turkey and 15 male turkeys were harvested despite the unusual spring weather. Warden Ted says it was great to work with the group and to hear the stories over lunch at the conservation club. He says the 2016 event was the most culturally diverse hunt he has had since his involvement with the program.
May: Fishing for fun!
Warden Dan Michels of Park Falls organized a fishing fun day for 51 third grade students from Chequamegon Grade School and St. Anthony's Catholic School at Coolidge Spring Trout Ranch just south of Fifield. The students learned about raising trout at the hatchery, fish identification, practiced their rod casting skills and fished for trout. Twenty volunteers from the community and DNR helped Warden Dan with his event that was sponsored by Coolidge Springs Trout Ranch owned by Eric and Sue Holm, St. Croix Rod Company, Butternut Feed Store, Park Falls Petro and the Butternut/Schnur Lake Association.
June: Taking the oath to serve & serving up smiles shoreside
At left is the balcony view of the 2016 DNR Natural Resources Law Enforcement Academy graduates at their ceremony in the Assembly Chambers of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.
Warden Tony Young, above right, at Harrington Beach State Park's Puckett's Pond in Ozaukee County with some of the 125 enthused fishing clinic participants. Not long after, Warden Tony was busy organizing the all-volunteer fish fry!
July: Floods and tears
DNR wardens, far left, were among the area responders who rushed to the Iron County Saxon Harbor area when heavy rains triggered flash flooding that left one man dead. Roads were washed out and about 85 boats were damaged or destroyed. Wardens worked in concert with local and federal responders -- teamwork common in such emergency responses to help citizens quickly and efficiently.
And the Bureau of Law Enforcement lost one of its four-legged helpers. Warden Mike Clutter of Sheboygan County, immediate left, delivered the sad news that his bloodhound, Navi, had died. Navi was a certified good canine citizen and trained to find missing people. She also was a favorite on the department's Twitter account during the gun-deer season and the warden tweetalongs. A public servant extraordinaire to the end, she is greatly missed.
August: C.O.P.S. camp to help the youngest of survivors
One of the favorite annual deployments of the DNR wardens is the national kids' camp sponsored by C.O.P.S. - Concerns of Police Survivors.
DNR wardens and their law enforcement partners from other agencies statewide and beyond travel to the national 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 waterfront site.
Here is Warden Tim Werner having a lot of fun with a camper whose father had been killed during a gun battle while on duty in Florida. Warden Tim got this great photo from the boy's mother who said her son had an absolute blast at camp and in the boat on this summer day.
September: Teaching boating safety with a real-life rescue and airboats help with flood response
Warden Nick Webster was teaching all about water safety to a captive audience of local grade-schoolers at Lafayette County Rural Safety Days on September 27 when he was interrupted by an enthused boy who had the inside scoop and proceeded to beat Warden Nick to the ending about the two capsized canoeists in this real-life boating safety story.
The boy proudly told his peers the two in the warden's boating safety story are his relatives and that was their anniversary paddle. Yes, but the happy pair ended their day, so to speak, up the creek without their paddles. Make that, up the river without their oars.
The boy said to Warden Nick in front of the classmates: "You're the one who pulled them out!" Story-telling teamwork is always more effective. What's the moral of the story Warden Nick was striving to send home with the kids? Wear your life jacket every time you get in a boat or play in water.
Meanwhile, in another part of the southern counties, wardens were on hand with their airboat to help Vernon County residents caught by damaging flash flooding that overwhelmed Viola. Two died in the county.
October: Special Olympics run & donuts!
Lower Chippewa Warden Team and Ranger Bayli Maliszewski represented the DNR Natural Resources Law Enforcement at the 3rd annual Special Olympics Run with the Cops in Eau Claire.
Officers run with Special Olympic athletes throughout the UW-Eau Claire campus and participate in other fun events such as a donut-eating contest. This year Ranger Bayli Maliszewski topped the field as fasted female officer. Ranger Bayli also anchored the donut-eating team with Chippewa County Wardens John Schreiber and Kevin Christorf to also win that event! Top right photo, left to right: Ranger Bayli Maliszewski, Wardens Kevin Christorf, Peter Carlson, Lt. Jeremy Peery and Warden John Schreiber.
November: Hunting, hunting and hunting
November is all about the 9-day gun-deer season. Wardens spend a lot of time preparing so they can help everyone else prepare themselves for what has been a Wisconsin tradition for decades! Here's Warden Ben Mott with a Waushara County hunter as they find some answers in the regulation handbook.
Thanks to responsible hunters and thousands of volunteer WDNR volunteer instructors Wisconsin again celebrated a fatality free 9-day gun-deer season.
December: Hunting for holiday help and fun – and 2 points!
BUCKETS OF BUCKS! Wardens Tyler Flood and Adam Hanna, right photo, brought their hardcourt skills to the fundraiser basketball game against the Greenwood High School boys and girls teams in Clark County. Almost $700 was raised to go toward the Dan Glaze Memorial Fund and the Shop with a Cop program. Lt. Warden Russ Fell and wife Stacy, left photo, had fun helping a young shopper fill her holiday gift list in Barron County as part of Shop with a Cop.
The Wisconsin DNR Conservation Wardens and staff wish you, your family and friends a terrific holiday season and a great 2017.