Wyoming Game Wardens perform a myriad of duties besides enforcing the State Wildlife Statutes. The following photos just give a sampling of Wyoming Wardens in the field.
Aerial captures related to three mule deer movement studies in the Sheridan Region took place in mid-December.
On Dec. 13, 2020, 39 mule deer does were captured via helicopter along the eastern Bighorns by a contracted capture crew and fitted with GPS collars as part of the Northern Bighorns Mule Deer Movement Study. There are now 119 collared deer in this study. The collars will collect locations for each deer at two-hour intervals for the next three years.
As part of the ongoing Upper Powder River Mule Deer Study, the capture crew recaptured 48 deer on Dec. 14 and 15 between Kaycee and Buffalo. The deer were transported to a staging area where wildlife managers took body measurements, collected blood and fecal samples, downloaded current data from the collars and used an ultrasound to assess body fat. Additionally, 18 collars retrieved from mortalities that occurred earlier in the study were redeployed on new deer. A final capture will take place in December 2021 and the collars are programmed to automatically release from each animal in January 2022.
On Dec. 16, GPS collars were fitted on 17 mule deer does captured near Highway 16 between Buffalo and Ucross as part of the Powder River/Pumpkin Buttes Deer Movement Study initiated in Nov. 2019. These collars were recovered from deer that died earlier in the study and redeployed.
Kaycee Game Warden Justin Dodd removes a GPS collar from a mule deer in the Upper Powder River Mule Deer Study in preparation to download data from the onboard computer.
Sheridan Game Warden Ryan Kenneda and Sheridan Regional Game Warden Heather Sterling participated in this year's Shop with a Cop event in Sheridan on Dec. 12, 2020. Fifty local children were accompanied by local law enforcement officers as they shopped for family members and picked up a donated food box.
Moorcroft Game Warden Jacob Miller and Gillette Wildlife Biologist Erika Peckham participated in the 15th annual Shop with a Cop event in Gillette on Dec. 5. Sixty-eight children participated this year.
Sheridan Game Warden Ryan Kenneda(R) and Moorcroft Game Warden Jake Miller(L) on the shopping spree for the SHOP WITH A COP Event
Green River Region personnel rescue elk with some help from concerned deer hunter and mine workers.
Green River Wildlife Biologist Patrick Burke and Rock Springs Game Warden Andy Roosa had an interesting day on October 1st. "This is normally one of the busiest days of the year, with several elk and deer hunt areas opening around the region," Roosa said. "This opening day was a little different, as we ended up helping a couple elk out of some life threatening situations. I received a call that a local deer hunter had come across two elk with their antlers locked together north of Rock Springs. Burke and I responded to the call and were able to get the elk separated. Unfortunately, one of the bulls was already dead when the hunter found them; the surviving bull was freed, but was missing part of his right antler."
A few hours later Roosa received a call that an elk calf had become stuck in some very deep mud at the Bridger Coal Mine. Burke and Roosa responded to that call just as the sun was setting. They were unable to reach the calf right away due to safety concerns with the terrain so a bull dozer was brought in to clear a path to the elk. They were then able to get close enough to the elk to get a rope around it and drag it out of the mud with the help of some mine employees. The calf was finally able to climb the steep slope out of the mine and head towards the herd at around 9:30 pm. Thanks to the folks at Bridger Coal Mine for their assistance in getting the calf elk back with the herd!
Wyoming Game Wardens host international Game Warden Conference - NAWEOA
CHEYENNE - Cheyenne - Last month, Wyoming game wardens hosted more than 600 of their cohorts from across the continent in Cheyenne.
The event was officially the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers' Association annual convention. And as the name suggests these men and women all share something that we hold very dear in the Equality State - the enforcement of wildlife laws and regulations.
But this large convergence of wildlife officers also brings to light the uniqueness of Wyoming game wardens - wearing hats in addition law enforcement. In other states and Canadian provinces, wildlife officers are 100 percent law enforcement officers. But in Wyoming, if game warden name tags were big enough they'd read: game warden/biologist/public relations specialist.
With this variety of hats, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has never had a specific "law enforcement division" unlike other states - except for just one year: 1958. All wardens and wildlife biologists merged back into a single "Game Division" in 1959, which was later renamed the "Wildlife Division" in 1993. Although the flow charts always listed game wardens on the Game or Wildlife side, Wyoming game wardens have always enforced fishing and boating regulations and worked closely with other coworkers.
By and large, the attendees at last month's convention have broad law enforcement authority in their respective states and provinces. But in Wyoming, game wardens only have direct law enforcement authority over hunting, fishing, trapping and boating laws and regulations, plus any potential felony witnessed and a few other miscellaneous non-wildlife laws. Wyoming law does allow game wardens to assist with any other statute, regulation or ordinance when another law enforcement agency requests help.
Clear back in the August 1960 Wyoming Wildlife, Sheridan game warden Norbert Faas summed up the Cowboy State district game warden: "In every community of our state, the game warden is considered to be the local ambassador of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and is expected to carry on the necessary public relations, manage game with proper supervision and advice and enforce the game and fish laws."
Here's some noteworthy current-era case histories of the public relations, biology and enforcement Faas highlighted 58 years ago this month.
Public Relations - Matt Lentsch is a former science teacher and an admirable, ongoing champion of conservation education. Shortly after his promotion to the Worland district in 1991, Lentsch became involved in the department's Hunter Stewardship Council. Lentsch jumped right in and led the charge in forming the Paintrock Hunter Mentoring Program on the west side of the Bighorn Mountains. With a large ranch opening their gates to the program, the kids and the ranch were a great team. The ranch provided the access, and the young hunters helped keep an expanding elk herd in check. Although, the original elk hunt program has ended, Lentsch and volunteers continue to mentor first-time hunters.
Lentsch became a cornerstone of the local National Wild Turkey Federation Chapter's "JAKES" youth program in 2005 and developed the program's flagship outdoor days reaching out to more than 75 kids each year. The chapter sponsored the "Turkey Hunters Care" program of donating holiday turkeys to area folks who could use a hand. Lentsch recruited kids to help some elderly with yard work to earn money to purchase 30-50 turkeys annually.
When the turkey chapter disbanded, Lentsch wasn't going to let that ultra-successful community involvement end, so he transferred it to the Paintrock Program. Improving the basic idea of providing a needed meal for the holidays, Lentsch modified the program to the "Young Hunters Care" outreach. Now, each November Lentsch and volunteers mentor 8-10 philanthropic teenage deer hunters. The youngsters harvest antlerless deer, process the carcasses themselves and donate the venison to less fortunate families. With the Wyoming Game Wardens Association providing the licenses, these young hunters are able to provide around 500 pounds of processed venison to needy folks in the Worland area each year.
After 27 years, Lentsch's mentoring endeavors have acquired considerable donated outdoor equipment. To give donors even more return on their investment, in 2012 he started a May field day for all fifth graders in his district. With the help of coworkers and volunteers, around 140 Worland students converge on the Washakie County Fairgrounds for 18 hands-on hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation activities. Lentsch has also taken the program on the road to schools in the outer reaches of his 3,000 square-mile district.
"Conservation education is a passion with me, just like dealing with hunters and anglers in the field,” Lentsch says. "The public relations aspect of the Wyoming game warden really helps us contribute to the community, recruit hunters and anglers and proactively alleviate potential future problems of wildlife violations."
Biological - The bigger picture Wyoming perspective of game wardens also handling some wildlife biologist duties really started with the first game warden, Albert Nelson, in 1899, but became official in the 1950s. The system was substantiated in 1964 when new warden hires were required to have a bachelor's degree in wildlife management or other closely-associated natural resource field, a requirement still held today.
Of course, the district game warden and biologist share their data and observations to propose hunting seasons, but the biological insights of both often go much deeper.
When Game and Fish Project Coordinator Mark Nelson was a game warden patrolling the Cheyenne district, the small herd of bighorn sheep in a remote corner of Wyoming's most populous county intrigued him. In his first five years of "classifying" - tallying ram/ewe and lamb/ewe ratios -- his counts from both the air and ground showed the number of lambs recruited into the population was low.
He suspected a habitat problem because large shrubs seemed to be choking the area, and bighorns typically prefer high, relatively open country. Nelson took his observations to his district wildlife biologist, habitat biologist and the statewide habitat coordinator. The habitat experts confirmed the shrubs were profoundly decadent - some mountain mahogany was 100 years old. The team deemed it a worthwhile project and prescribed a combination of herbicide treatments and controlled burns to not just help the sheep but also mule deer. Nelson set up a meeting with the rancher and the team sold the idea, which included resting the burns for a couple years from livestock. As grass quickly followed the burn, the sheep followed the grass and often "camp out" on the burns. In a couple years, mule deer were taking advantage of the re-sprouted mountain mahogany. The elk in the area didn't need help, but they're enjoying the new grass, too. "It's a welcome and rewarding challenge to have biologist's responsibilities in conjunction with enforcement duties in Wyoming," says Nelson, who was a district game warden for 20 years before recently taking over the department's scientific permitting program. "It really helps you keep the big and evolving picture of wildlife management in focus."
Enforcement - Going back to 1899, enforcement was the charge of our original game wardens and persists to this day. In 2017, Wyoming game wardens put in 53,742 on-the-ground and 1,635 on-the-water enforcement hours, resulting in 2,337 warnings and 1,798 citations written and 268 unsolved violations.
Here's a snapshot of one case featuring interesting Wyoming socio and enforcement angles. Game warden Jason Hunter was returning to Laramie in early evening after patrolling some late-season pronghorn hunting. Off a graveled road in some remote foothills northeast of the Gem City, he noticed an out-of-place gathering of magpies. He hiked about 60 yards off the north side of the road and discovered two headless, ungutted buck mule deer hidden in some tall brush with only parts of their back straps and hindquarters removed. Hunter also found a variety of litter including a live .30-30 cartridge and a knife package at the scene.
The package suggested the knife had been recently purchased, so the next day he researched what Laramie businesses carried that item. Walmart was an affirmative, reporting they sold two the day prior. The first was purchased with a long list of groceries during the day; the other at 10:30 p.m. with a chest freezer, flashlight, camera and batteries.
"The latter transaction sure got my attention," Hunter said.
Due to corporate policy, Walmart couldn't release the credit card names or videotape of the customers without a search warrant. So Hunter rounded up the warrant, and the store manager had everything ready to hand over when it was served.
Hunter ran the names of the two customers by the Laramie Police Department and learned from speeding tickets, the men were students at Wyoming Technical Institute, an automotive trade school. Hunter and his supervisor then waited at the school in an unmarked truck and followed one of the suspects home. After confirming both men lived at the address, a search warrant was obtained for the house and truck and served the next day with the help of other game wardens. The officers discovered a spotlight, two flashlights smeared with blood, a .30-30 rifle and venison in the same freezer that was purchased along with the knife. The truck produced .30-30 casings and some deer hair.
When interviewed, the students, 24 and 19, readily confessed, saying the incident was prompted by "wanting some deer meat." So they went for a drive after school, spotted the deer, went back to town to pick up the rifle, spotlight and supplies and then back to commit the crime.
The men were ordered to each pay $2,250 in fines and restitution and had their hunting and fishing license privileges revoked for six years. They received a 60-day jail sentence, suspended providing they each paid the $2,250 in one year, which they did.
This article was written by Jeff Obrecht whom for 32 years contributed to the Wyoming Wildlife. In the last 10 years, he served as the associate editor and even a year as the interim editor before retiring July 27. He also edited and authored a considerable portion of "Wildlife Crime: Stories From Wyoming's Wildlife Officers," a collection of 90 noteworthy cases published by Game and Fish in 2013 and available at the Game and Fish Store.
Jason Sherwood also assisted with this story and is a 17-year veteran of Wyoming wildlife enforcement. He patrolled out of six different towns before being promoted to the regional access coordinator for southeast Wyoming in 2006. He is currently stationed in Laramie.
Young hunters learn the ropes
Worland - Game Warden Matt Lentsch shared the following photos of young hunters he mentored in the Worland area last fall. The Wyoming Game
August 8, 2015
Slain game wardens remembered
The Wyoming Game Wardens Association conducted a ceremony to honor the service and sacrifice of game wardens Bill Lakanen and Don Simpson at Jack Creek Park on the Medicine Bow National Forest west of Saratoga on August 8, 2015. Lakanen and Simpson were murdered by John Malten, a German immigrant, at his cabin on Jim Creek on October 31, 1945. Approximately 60 people attended the memorial service and heard accounts of the incident by Bill Robertson, president of the Wyoming Game Wardens Association and Greybull Game Warden, and Saratoga Game Warden Biff Burton. The Wyoming Game Wardens Association Honor Guard also gave a 21-gun salute and played taps for the solemn occasion.
WGWA President and Greybull Game Warden Bill Robertson (L) and Saratoga Game Warden Biff Burton (R) at the Ceremony.
On August 10, 2014 the Wyoming Game Wardens Association Honor Guard paid respects to retired Chief Game Warden Jay Lawson during his memorial service. Jay passed away on July 15, 2014 in Cheyenne at the age of 65.
Wyoming Peace Officer Memorial – Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas - May 16, 2014
Wyoming Game Wardens Association Spurs
Retired Game Wardens Qualification Shoot May 21, 2014
(LtoR): Gregg Arthur, Bob Sexton, Jim Bradley, Mark Nelson, Chris Daubin, Jeff Smith, Jim Johnston
In August, 2013 Afton Game Warden Todd Graham recently placed this plaque at the Moose Creek Patrol Cabin in the Greys’ River Drainage. Longtime Afton Game Warden Duane Hyde built the cabin in 1976, and it has been maintained over the years by numerous Game & Fish employees, past and present.
Moose Creek Cabin
Established in 1976 by Game Warden Duane Hyde. For the Protection and Conservation of Wildlife
In Memory of Afton Game Warden Duane Hyde
Cody Region personnel spent eight days at the remote Thorofare Cabin located in the Bridger Teton National Forest, just south of Yellowstone National Park. The work crew spent time shingling the roof, staining the cabin, felling trees, and building saddle racks.
Chris Queen and Craig Smith replacing roof shingles.
From Left: Biologist Bart Kroger, Game Warden Jim Olson, Forest Service Ranger Ron Ostrum, Game Wardens Chris Queen, and Craig Smith, and Wildlife Supervisor Alan Osterland.
Jackson Game Warden Jon Stephens visits with a successful father-daughter hunt team.
Rawlins Game Warden Teal Joseph keeps watch on wintering mule deer in the Bennett Peak area during the Saratoga winter range task force.
East Casper Game Warden Cody Bish with a Black Bear that was immobilized in Casper and relocated.
South Jackson Game Warden Kyle Lash assists a young angler.
East Rawlins Game Warden Dillon Herman holds a mule deer fawn that was removed from a home where it was being kept as a “pet”. In Wyoming it is illegal to possess big game animals and many other species.
Lovell Game Warden James Hobbs sets up a solar charger to deter Canada geese from a field.
Saratoga Game Warden Biff Burton rides his horse Kookaburra to check anglers at Stovepipe Gulch in the North Platte River Wilderness Area. He met a group of Australian visitors who were delighted to meet a Wyoming game warden on a horse named after a bird native to Australia.
Cokeville Game Warden Neil Hymas releasing a Black Bear after it successfully completed rehabilitation in Idaho after being captured in Green River in 2014 as a 30 pound cub. The male bear weighed 162 pounds t the time of his release. All bears must be released back into the state of their capture upon completion of rehabilitation.
Game Wardens Craig Smith and Travis Crane and Large Carnivore Specialist Kyle Bales hobble a moose after the animal was chemically immobilized in order to transport him to an awaiting horse trailer.
Sheridan Region Office Manager Lori Roe (with torch), her son Nate (in white shirt) and Troy Tobiasson (far right) participate in the Special Olympics' Unified Relay Across America torch run.
Large Carnivore Conflict Training with the Green River Region.
Afton Game warden Todd Graham and IDFG warden Shane Bliss conducting boater checks on Palisades Reservoir. Photo Kyle Lash
Mountain View Wildlife Biologist Jeff Short, Green River Game Warden Andy Roosa, Green River Wildlife Supervisor Steve DeCecco and Kemmerer Game Warden Chris Baird began replacing the roof at the Labarge Creek patrol cabin. The project should be completed in a couple weeks, with a new steel roof, just in time for hunting season.
Game Wardens Shawn Blajszczak, Kelly Todd, Ryan Kenneda, and Access Coordinator Jason Sherwood participated in the Laramie Jubilee Days Parade in Laramie to help celebrate Wyoming’s 125th birthday.
North Jackson Game Warden Jon Stephens, and his steadfast sidekick Gus, scan the high country for bighorn sheep.
South Jackson Game Warden Kyle Lash collars a bighorn ewe.
North Jackson Game Warden Jon Stephens and Jackson Wildlife Biologist Aly Courtemanch checking hunters in the Teton Wilderness northeast of Moran and the Gros Ventre Wilderness.
Jackson Wildlife Biologist Aly Courtemanch and South Jackson Warden Kyle Lash remove plastic fencing from a moose’s antlers.
Meeteetse Game Warden Jim Olson and his string of fine mules head across a high plateau deep in the heart of the Absaroka Wilderness during the 2015 bighorn sheep season.
South Cody Game Warden Craig Smith assists with removing fencing as part of National Public Lands Day.