Friday, July 25, 2014

Catching the bear and other warden games

The week of July 21rst heralded the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association (NAWEA) annual conference. Fish & Wildlife Officers from the US and Canada met in Reno (NV)to exchange ideas, get some training, and have some fun. One of the events is the "warden Games" where teams compete against each other for bragging rights as the number one team. Friday, July 25th was the warden Games at Rancho San Rafael County Park (one of my favorite parks).

It was a hot day on Reno, with temperature expected to top out around 96 degrees. Mother Nature blessed us with a bright blue sky clear of clouds for the event. Each team was expected to compete in five events:

  • a skills relay
  • a water toss
  • map-reading
  • identification of bird calls
  • bear capture

The relay started with putting chains on a tire (simulated doing so in bad weather) and rolling up & down a distance. Then they moved to a fly-fishing center, progressed to a simulated water rescue, and finished with a crawl under wires.

NV Dept of Wildlife Game Warden Lt. Mike McCusker times a competitor
NV Dept of Wildlife Game Warden Capt. Kristy Knight referees the Relay Race
Fish & Wildlife Officers 'rescue' a victim in the water
Capt. Kristy Knight overseeing the tire section
running to the next station from the fly-fishing section

Another station was the 'water-toss' in which the teams split to two-men teams. One team would shoot the balls using an elastic band. The projectiles would flyover a large large and the other two men held a tarp, in which they attempted to catch as many balls as they could.

The water-toss station

The map-reading station had a bunch of places marked on a map. The contestants then had to identify as many as they could.

The bird call contest consisted of pictures of birds and audio sounds of their calls. Officers had to identify as many of the bird's calls as they could as fast as they could. NV Dept. of Wildlife Captain Don Klebonow is seen here administering the test.

The bear-capture station started out with the teams getting a look at the 'rampaging bear' - a 650 lb black bear (taxidermy). They then ran back to the station tent and calculated how much tranquilizer would be needed based upon the guessed weight of the bear. After 'drawing up' the liquid in a syringe, they could grab the tranquilizer gun and go shoot the bear to temporarily disable the animal. Of course, what bear capture in Nevada doesn't have the potential for protesters (aka Bear League) to be present. The warden shooting the tranquilizer gun had to avoid hitting the public at large while his or her companions restrained the protesters. The tranq gun fired rubber projectiles at the bear - two hits were required to administer the 'drug'. After the bear was taken down, the team had to hoist the bear (a couple of sand bags) on a tarp and get the animal to the game warden's truck waiting up the path.  They had to shoot until the warden struck the bear with two darts, bu they only had two with them. After the second shot, a team member could run a new dart to the shooter until the required second hit had been attained.The fastest time won.

NV Dept. of Wildlife Game Wardens oversee the medication draw as part of the bear capture event.

The 'protesters' were very tenacious.

NV Dept. of Wildlife Jason Jackson referees the bear capture.

The 'dangerous' bear 

I had the chance to speak with some folks form other agencies. Everyone was having a great time, whether they were participating, refereeing, or just watching (like me).

It began to get a little hot out so I didn't stay to see which team won the Games. Unfortunately, I get migraines so I am limited to how much time I can spend in the sun.

I'm glad I went to watch the games. I even saw some of the Game Wardens from our Southern Region. It was nice seeing the guys (and gals) in person. Our retired Chief, Rob Buonamici  was present and I had the opportunity to chat with him. He is enjoying his well-deserved time-off.

Thanks to NAWEA for the fun and kudos to my co-workers for putting on a great event!

Stay safe out there!

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