By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)August 8, 2013
Imagine going to work and stepping into 62,911 acres of office -- that's what it is like for Fort Leonard Wood's game wardens.
"We know the installation better than anybody, because we check all the boundaries," said Police Lt. William Force, Game Warden/Animal Control Operations chief.
The areas game wardens patrol -- outside the cantonment area -- include 38 hunting areas, 19 lakes and ponds, the Big Piney River and the Roubidoux Creek.
A game warden is a certified police officer who has received specialized training in the area of wildlife code enforcement, enforcing federal and state laws pursuant to preservation and conservation of natural resources.
The game warden section on Fort Leonard Wood has five officers and one animal control technician.
Fort Leonard Wood's game wardens are assigned to the Directorate of Emergency Services with the primary mission to enforce 10 USC 2671, the Missouri Wildlife Code, Army and local regulations pertaining to the installation hunting and fishing program, Army land management, protection of archeological sites and protection of endangered and protected species.
"Many people think we just ride around in 4x4s and check hunting and fishing permits -- but we do so much more than that," Force said. "Hunter education is a large part of what we do. Fort Leonard Wood game wardens have shown hunters how to field dress a deer, given them tips on where to place their tree stands and how to properly tag their deer."
Many of the hunting areas are also training areas, so game wardens are the ones dispatched to remove trespassers from an area where military training is being conducted.
Additional duties that are encompassed in the day-to-day responsibilities of the game wardens are conducting frequent checks of the post's remote Access Control Points.
"We check the ACPs to make sure there haven't been any breeches to the installations security," Force said.
Game wardens also write warnings and citations for violation of traffic laws, assist with traffic control points and respond to military police dispatch for a variety of calls.
"We've been called out on everything from a hawk in a building to domestic disturbances," Force said.
Knowing Fort Leonard Wood like the back of their hands comes in handy when locating lost, injured and stranded people within the post's boundaries.
Force said his game wardens have helped numerous lost hikers, and one time the game wardens even helped a hunter that was trapped, hanging upside down from his deer stand.
Game wardens' hours vary based on the hunting seasons. They work many nights, weekends and holidays as they are popular times for hunters and anglers to recreate outdoors.
Game wardens work closely with the Department of Natural Resources and are called on to assist with data collection such as deer herd surveys, raptor counts and angler surveys.
Force said he enjoys being a game warden because he wants to ensure future generations can enjoy Fort Leonard Wood's natural resources.
"Fort Leonard Wood's game wardens have a passion for outdoors. I enjoy the sense of excitement that comes along with seeing a youth kill their first deer or turkey. For that matter, many of our service members have never hunted or fished before, then they come to Fort Leonard Wood and it's a popular thing with the abundance of wildlife here. Helping new hunters and anglers keeps me enthusiastic about being a game warden," Force said.
Animal control technician
The game warden's animal control technician is responsible for educating the residents of Fort Leonard Wood of the requirements of responsible pet ownership as outlined in Fort Leonard Wood Regulation 40-4 "Control of and Care for Privately Owned Animals" and the revised Statute of Missouri as it applies to care and control of domestic animals.
According to Force, on average the technician picks up about 200 stray dogs annually -- 60 percent of them are unregistered.
The technician also traps and relocates wild animals. The animals are captured in live traps and removed from the cantonment area, then relocated in the forest.
There were two separate wildlife success stories for the game wardens just last week.
"My animal control technician was called out to a training area for an injured owl. He picked up the owl and transported it to the Natural Resources Mammal's biologist to be assessed for release or rehabilitation," said Force. "A lot of birds on the installation like, eagles, hawks and owls are protected. So, when they are injured we really try our best to remove them from danger and get them out in the open where they can flourish again."
Force said the next rescue required a bit of ingenuity from Kenton Lohraff, mammal biologist.
"We had a Cooper's Hawk that was inside Bldg. 999. We successfully got the hawk out by bating it with a pet rat in a cage," Force said. "He zeroed in on the rat from across the building, when he flew outside he realized he was free and took off."
In 2012, the animal control technician trapped 326 indigenous animals including skunks, opossum, raccoons and ground hogs.