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WDFW Enforcement is divided into two patrol sections, Marine and Land, although responsibilities often overlap and the two sections commonly assist each other. The following are real life events that provide a snapshot of fish and wildlife enforcement activity in Washington State. These examples show the diversity of issues that Fish and Wildlife Police Officers ("Game Wardens") encounter while protecting your natural resources, but are by no means all encompassing of our many accomplishments. All violations are considered alleged unless a conviction has been secured.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Sometimes humans collide with wildlife. Other times, it's the wildlife that collides with humans. Such was the case when Officer Chamberlin received information about an elk entangled in a line attached to some playground equipment in Ariel last week. The four-point bull was found with the line wrapped around the base of his antlers, and the situation had all the makings of an elk rodeo. WDFW Biologists Pat Miller and Eric Holman and Officers Chamberlin, Van Vladricken and Hughes responded to deal with the big fellow. 

The elk had to be tranquilized before the rope could be cut away, but when the bull finally woke up, it ran off into the woods saying "THANK YOU!" Ok, maybe not, but he looked much happier...

Think wrangling wildlife sounds easy? Well.... it's not. Take, for instance, a similar situation involving Sgt. Phillips and Officer Rosenberger:

A Very Crabby Deer
(as told by Sgt. Rich Phillips while working in the Marine Division):

How many times have you found yourself in a predicament where you KNOW the only outcome is gonna be bad?  And, despite that knowledge, you just keep on going, driven by an inner voice that seems to say, "run the other way, you idiot!"

So here is how it all began.  A simple call from State Patrol radio: 

"Everett to all Wildlife Units, a deer caught in a crab pot..."

Now, you gotta admit, THAT'S not a call you get every day.  I debated with myself and lost, so I answered the call.  Seems some folks in Anacortes have a deer caught up in a crab pot.  No Skagit County units were working (proving once again that they are smarter than me), and I have to admit I was curious to see what this would look like.  Kinda like watching a train wreck, I imagined.  But hey, I am a fish cop.  And crab is a marine critter.  And if I remember correctly, I once was a Game Warden (another term for the present day land officer). 

I make several phone calls and finally get Officer Kit Rosenberger on the line.  Kit is a fine young marine officer and I decided he might enjoy learning some "game wardening."  I told him to gear up, bring his camera and his lovely wife Chelsea (to document what would no doubt be an historic event).  The reporting party is insistent that we bring a tranquilizer gun with us to subdue the beast while we free it.  I try to explain that fish cops don't use tranquilizer guns, the darn salmon just sink before you can catch them!

I meet Kit and Chelsea at the residence a short time later.  Kit (being young and fairly sound of mind) tells me the deer is a nice three-point blacktail buck and is entangled in rope from a crab pot just over the cut bank. Kit makes what later seems a pretty good request.  He says, "why don't we just shoot it?"  Now, to normal folk, that might seem like a good idea.  The deer is hacked off, all entangled in rope and buoys.  He also has somehow gotten a small tree mixed up in all the mess.  But somewhere in the process I have misplaced most of my IQ points and I tell Kit we're gonna have a deer rodeo.  He looks at me like I lost what little grip I ever had on sanity.  Chelsea suggests he get on its back and ride it off into the sunset (she is snickering most of the time).

We climb down the bank and are now standing within striking distance of the buck - his striking distance, not ours!  I am trying to hold onto the tree, Kit is trying to cut the rope off it's antlers, Chelsea is taking pictures and laughing, and the deer is trying his best to gore me with his antlers!  Kit has to be careful which part of the rope he cuts, because if he cuts it wrong the deer will take off dragging the tree and an old Sergeant!  Every time the deer shakes his head, Kit jumps out of the way and his knife slashes wildly past my face!  This goes on for several minutes, until both the deer and the Sergeant are exhausted.  Finally the last of the rope is severed and the deer is free.  Ungrateful thing then tries to gore me again.  The deer, not Kit.  The deer is snorting, I am sweating, Kit is scrambling up the hill, and Chelsea is still laughing! 

Finally reaching safe ground we survey our work.  I am patting both Kit and myself on the back for some pretty good Game Wardening.  I think I pulled a muscle.  Kit looks at me and says quietly, "I'll remember this for a long time."  For me, I'm going back to being a fish cop...... 

Editors Note: This turned out to be untrue as Sgt. Phillips now supervises a land unit……we always knew he was part cowboy!

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