Warden recalls 2012: Werewolf, flashers, but no spaceship call - yet
It was a year for the werewolf hunting license, flashers on Milwaukee's lakefront and guarding some U.S. Navy ships mixed in with outdoor incident investigations, searches for missing hunters and swimmers along with two weeks at Mitchell International Airport for clean-up duties after thousands of gallons of jet fuel leaked from a pipeline.
Conservation Warden Supervisor Rick Reed, who leads the Waukesha County team in the Department of Natural Resources' Southeast Region, calls 2012 "another year of chaos." But he smiles wide when he says that.
Warden Reed took time to look back at the year that brought a lot more to the wardens' outdoor beat than the outdoors. "I was reaching deep to try and come up with an area we have not had issues with this year - and about the only thing I came up with was spaceships," he says. Well, there's always next year.
The Waukesha Warden Team also covered a lot of the wildlife species issues - including the normal calls and taxidermy audits. "We even got to cover all the African stuff including the crocodiles and big cats," he says.
And when he says 'big cats,' he's not talking about plump American Shorthairs. "We had the field contact calls that start with geese and leads into illegal turkeys, doves and hawks; freezers with 109 walleyes; shining and shooting cases over bait where the dad hands the gun to his kids to feel the pride of their first kill."
There also were the complaints about a cougar. But this time, the cougar trail led to a spirited Labrador retriever. "And, I even talked with a guy about a werewolf hunting license," he says. No wonder Warden Reed had a hard time coming up with an issue the wardens didn't handle.
There were more than 410 Hotline calls to this team. The Hotline - 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367 - is the number the public may confidentially report suspected wildlife, recreational, and environmental violations.
"We went into the woods after an unknown shooter, recovered bodies, searched for missing swimmers and hunters and responded to two plane crashes," Warden Reed says.
There also were the marijuana grows, warrants, passed out drivers with guns, litterbugs and homeless guys swimming in the park ponds.
"And, we had the flashers running around the lakefront tipping over porta-johns," Warden Rick says. "We helped finish the bluff collapse investigation, investigated illegal scrapyard sales, learned even more about dam regulations, tackled the weed regulations, and arrested more than 20 intoxicated boat operators to keep other users safe. "
The warden team also took enforcement action against sellers using Craig's List to find buyers of native herps. (Herps means reptiles. It's short for herpetology - the study of amphibians and reptiles.)
"The off-roaders and trappers in the Root River Parkway and Little Baghdad received a much needed education," he says. " We even got to work with a Native American School to try and untangle eagle parts- that was our education. "
These wardens also enjoyed a lot of face time with some pretty terrific people of the state's southeast region:
• They taught kids to hunt turkeys, deer, pheasants, waterfowl and doves and how to fish at the Milwaukee clinics.
• They worked with the Concerns of Police Survivors and helped clean up the Fox River with volunteers.
• They explained the warden jobs at tons of clubs and civic organizations as well as using what some may consider a lifetime's worth of patience at two sports shows and multiple community "night outs."
• They were media faces and voices, talking about whatever the hot topic of the day was.
• And they even spent a few nights guarding U.S. Navy ships on Lake Michigan.
Reed says it's understandable people may only associate wardens with wildlife and outdoor recreation involving snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. That's understandable. Consider their home base - Waukesha County.
Waukesha has the state's highest number of boats, those kept in the county - 35,200. Dane is with 25,500 and Milwaukee is third with 22,800.
Waukesha has the third highest number of all-terrain vehicles with 8,700. Marathon has 10,200, and Brown has 8,900.
Waukesha has the fourth highest number of snowmobiles in the state with 5,700. Vilas has 8,600, Oneida has 7,400, and Marathon has 6,500.
And, the Southeast Region certified the most new hunters in the state with 5,064. Waukesha had the highest total in the state with 1,152. Waukesha County also certified the most new boaters in the state with 290; Milwaukee County was fourth in the state at 136.
But the conservation warden job in the southeast region is as varied as life in Waukesha County is on any day.
"We have had more than our fair share of entertainment. When I think of all the fun people we get to deal with, I am constantly amazed," Warden Reed says.
"I'm proud of the wardens and the dedication they have in serving and protecting our natural resources and the people who enjoy them. It can be a wild job sometimes - and we're just the ones to do it. Here's to a great New Year," he concluded.