By: Joanne M. Haas/WDNR Bureau of Law Enforcement
You'll often hear a WDNR conservation warden say: 'No two days are the same.' That's true in any season in Wisconsin, where the natural resources are incredible, the people are active and the wardens are ready to respond.
As we approach the end of the year and the 2010s, the wardens pulled a few highlights from their community service experiences to share with you during this holiday season. Let's get started!
Keystone: 'You kinda look like a deer'
"I see this dog running up to me," Warden Clark said of a golden retriever that seemed to be all alone and happy to see a potential new pal. "Who takes a golden retriever out on opening day and then leaves it out of their sight?"
A breed known for retrieving shot waterfowl with a general all-around friendly and intelligent nature, the retriever came bounding to Warden Clark to say hello, pet me now -- as dogs tend to do.
"Hey buddy, you don't have orange on and you kinda look like a deer," Warden Clark said to the dog encountered at a dead end of the road leading into the hunting acres.
So, the warden and the dog started walking the road, hoping to find its owner still in one of the vehicles. No luck. He turned around saw the dog returning to its apparent original trek of heading into the woods - bad move considering how much this dog could have been mistaken for a deer.
"This is not safe," Warden Clark said as he made a dash for his truck. He swung open the passenger door of his warden truck and whistled to the dog to come back. It did, dropped its rear a bit but stopped short of jumping in. Warden Clark could sense the dog's desire to jump in, but from the ground up into a truck seat would be a big leap for an older dog. "I scooped him up and put him in my front passenger seat. He loved it there. He road shotgun as I drove and made phone calls."
Warden Clark couldn't find an owner's tag on the dog; however, there was a rabies tag with a phone number. "It was to an Iowa veterinary office. And they answered - at 7:30 in the morning!"
Thanks to the Iowa office staff, Warden Clark got the owner's phone number, called and left a voice mail. Warden Clark was driving in the area when he came upon a hunting cabin with the door open. "This must be it," he thought to himself. He didn't have to wait too long before someone appeared and said, "Oh, that's Keystone. He must've gotten out."
Happily, Keystone - who apparently needs no key to escape - was back with the owners. Sadly, Warden Clark lost his co-pilot. "He was a sweet dog and really cute."
But Keystone lives on in Warden Clark's memory -- and on his passenger seat. "I'm still cleaning out the dog hair."
Wardens, dog & kids: Cool classroom connections!
Wardens Kaitlin Kernosky and Jonathan Kaiser, along with Warden Kaitlin's K9 Teal, enjoyed a day with the Waupaca Middle School students at the Waupaca FFA Career Day. The kids had a lot of curiosity about the warden career. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, the star of the day was Teal who worked the room reinforcing the service side of the job. Or, maybe he was just looking for some ear scratches.
Cover-up solved! Bandit caught on camera
Wardens get all sorts of calls for help from citizens facing ... well, you name it! Warden Matt Koshollek of Drummond got a call from a citizen who was frustrated by the appearance of someone being mischievous with some bear bait. The citizen complained day-after-day the bait was being covered with sand. Who was behind this cover-up? A trail camera was put in place to determine who was behind this sandy act. After one night the mystery was solved as they watched the evidence unfold. Waddling up to cover the bait was - a badger.
UTV ticket brings real life lesson
Warden Nick King of Green County saw a (utility-terrain vehicle) UTV operating on a public trail with three passengers. None were not wearing seatbelts. One of the passengers was 6 years old and was not wearing a helmet as required. So, Warden Nick issued a safety violation citation - much to the chagrin of the UTV operator who also was the child's grandfather. He called Warden Nick's supervisor to complain. A week or so later, Warden Nick was called to another UTV accident that involved the same 6-year-old who this time was wearing a helmet. Warden Nick again spoke with the grandfather who was in tears, saying he understood the helmet requirement and it was the helmet that likely saved the child's life.
Wardens ring in, shop all sorts of holiday help!
When it comes to the annual holiday season, your WDNR wardens are ready to help community groups support their citizens who may need a boost. Wardens were seen ringing the red bells for the Salvation Army, talking with customers at Culver's for the Lights for Christmas effort and paired with children for the Shop with a Cop event.
Here's Warden Tom Sturdivant (left) ready for duty at the Culver's in Neenah for Lights for Christmas. Started in 2016, the northeast Wisconsin program raises funds for gift cards and backpacks full of items to help the homeless and others in need. The officers were asked to help spread the Lights for Christmas word to the diners. The program then provided the items for law enforcement officers to distribute in the region. And it was a real family affair at the Salvation Army's red bell for Capt. Ben Treml, right, of the northeast region.
Every year, wardens statewide partner with local groups to participate in the Shop with a Cop events. It pairs officers with children to help them shop for gifts for family members.
Wardens Jonathan Kaiser and Kaitlin Kernosky with Lt. Ted Dremel, center, participated in the early December Shop with a Cop program in Waupaca County at the local Fleet Farm store. Hard to say who enjoys this annual outing more - the wardens or the kids.
Joe Paul: A warden for all ages
The world saw the faces of Wardens Joe Paul (left)and Nic Hefter recently as they posed with 104-year-old Florence Teeters, as she bought her first-ever gun-deer license... then went on to get her first buck on the first day of the state's gun-deer season. But you already know that story.
What you may not know is Warden Joe also is very active in helping the Oconto River Kids, a non-profit charitable organization that provides hunting and fishing opportunities for kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It started in 2012 and Warden Joe has been instrumental in helping kids and their families since it started. In this photo is Warden Joe, second from right kneeling in front row, poses with a 15-year-old boy who, with his family, after his bear hunt.
Gun-deer: Family Time and Let's Eat!
Warden Meghan Jensen was on gun-deer patrols when she came upon this happy pair in southern Trempealeau County. The father and son were loading an impressive 10-point buck. Kudos to this team.
There’s take-out and then there’s eat-out… really out with the Burnett County-based wardens. Warden Chris Spaight gets half a selfie as he, Wardens Dustin Gabrielson and Peter Carlson fire up some steaks on break during gun-deer patrols.
For all of you enjoying a white Christmas or wishing for one, or just wishing for some December snow, Warden Jesse Ashton shares this serene, beautiful white blanket scene near Grantsburg in Burnett County.
From all the wardens to you, enjoy this season and all the incredible outdoor fun to be had in Wisconsin. Stay safe out there!
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 reported information to conservation wardens.