The role of a game warden, also known as a conservation officer, is diverse. Their main function is to protect fish, wildlife and other natural resources by enforcing laws surrounding activities that involve those resources - laws related to fish and wildlife, state parks, trails and forests, and outdoor recreation activities such as off-road vehicle use, snowmobiling and boating. However, they also have the same authority as police officers and are authorized to enforce state laws just as any peace officer would and respond to incidents like car accidents, domestic violence, natural disasters, emergencies and more. Sgt. DePew says conservation officers take on many different law enforcement roles.
Although conservation officers are tasked with enforcing all laws and regulations under the Department of Natural Resources, some infractions occur more frequently than others. The most common infractions that Sgt. DePew comes across in his region are related to tagging and baiting issues. As it relates to hunting tags, there are a couple of different scenarios that come up often. The first, he says, is failing to properly validate tags by notching out the day, month and sex of the animal. For hunters, understanding how to fill out your game tag properly is important. Sgt. DePew says he uses discretion when citing hunters on a case by case basis. As someone who has been a police officer for 22 years, he notes that he has become very good at reading people. If he makes contact with someone who is on their first hunt, or is really excited about their first deer but they haven't properly tagged their animal, he often uses the opportunity to educate them on the proper tagging procedure instead of citing them. The other tagging issue he runs into frequently is a hunter taking too many deer. In this instance, these infractions tend to be made by hunters who know the laws and are intentionally doing things they know they shouldn't. Often these hunters will shoot more deer than they are legally allowed and then try to use other people's tags, like a wife or family member's, on the deer. Again, when it comes to years of law enforcement experience, Sgt. DePew says he is able to pick these kinds of people out from a mile away and then deal with the situation proactively. Aside from tagging issues, Sgt. DePew says baiting infractions tend to be a fairly frequent problem he encounters. Although a baiting ban has been in place for most of Michigan for quite some time to help curb the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, Sgt. DePew says he still encounters issues of baiting and it's a real issue.
Sgt. DePew says many people see the uniform, the badge, the vehicle and recognize conservation officers as the Department of Natural Resources. While the officers are tasked with enforcing laws and regulations under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources, they don't make up the entirety of the DNR. There are so many more people behind the scenes that are the unsung heroes of the DNR, he says. It's the biologists, forestry people, and other professionals that are doing research, making suggestions, implementing policy, setting limits, and making determinations surrounding wildlife that allow the state to have, maintain and improve the rich natural wildlife and resources they already have. Sgt. DePew says he appreciates the way the show "Wardens" really highlights different divisions of the DNR, outside of just game wardens, and helps educate people on different things the department does, like blowing up a beaver dam, and then explaining why.
Listen in as Sgt. Mark DePew of the law division of the Michigan DNR joins The Revolution to talk about the vital role that conservation officers play in protecting natural resources. He'll also discuss how the hit show, "Wardens" is giving viewers a real inside look at the role of a conservation officer. Catch new episodes of "Wardens" on Outdoor Channel, Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ET. You can also watch nine seasons worth of "Wardens" anytime you want streaming it with MyOutdoorTV.