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A Dangerous Calling

Yesterday’s shootout with former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner should dispel any doubts about the dangerous nature of a California Fish and Game (Wildlife) officer’s job.  Here’s something you may not be aware of: California Fish and Game (Wildlife) wardens are not only empowered to enforce all state laws and local ordinances, they are also deputized federal officers, authorized to enforce federal laws dealing with fish and wildlife.

A Look Inside Badges, Bears and Eagles: “The Fall River Elk Killings”

Two members of the Department of Fish and Game's exclusive and highly skilled scuba diving team were brought in to search the deeper water. On any given day, Larry Bruckenstein and Jauquin Mariante could be diving for gunny sacks of illegal abalone off the shark-infested Marin Coast or, in this case, packages of elk meat from a Northern California trout stream. While scouring the river bottom, our divers found shell casings, elk ribs, elk antlers and a cardboard box filled with packaged elk meat. For...

Great Place for a Nature Walk

The other day, my wife and I took a nature walk on the Battle Creek Wildlife Area.   We headed downstream from the County Line Bridge, along the Tehama County side of Battle Creek.  The sky was overcast and the ground was still wet from the previous day’s rain.  We had the entire 582-acre wildlife area to ourselves. It was so quiet; you could have heard a pine needle drop, except there are no pines along lower Battle Creek.  The riparian zone is vegetated with willows, blackberry thickets, Ailanthus and one of the oldest and tallest remaining stands of old growth cottonwoods and sycamores in California. I really don’t like mentioning Ailanthus (Chinese tree of heaven). Unfortunately, this incredibly invasive exotic is crowding out many of the native plant species.

A Look Inside Badges, Bears, and Eagles: Chapter 3, “Squeaky”

As day dawned, our previous enthusiasm had given way to absolute misery. To make matters worse, the mosquitoes returned and stuck around until about 7:00 a.m., when the scorching desert heat drove them away. There had been no sign of Squeaky or anyone else. My disillusioned partner and I wanted to pack up and go home, but something told us that Squeaky would show up any minute. An hour passed and Squeaky had still not come, so we waited one more hour and then another.

A Look Inside Badges, Bears, and Eagles: Chapter 23, “Bears and Bad Guys”

Jessup walked over to a second refrigerator and pulled out another plastic bag, containing four more gall bladders. The four gall bladders in this bag were two or three times larger than those in the first bag. [Agent] Hoang did not want to appear anxious, so he bartered with Jessup for a few minutes and said he wasn't prepared to buy all of them at that time. "I don't like keepin' 'em here at the house and neither does the other guy," said Jessup. Henry...

A Look Inside Badges, Bears and Eagles: Chapter 11, “Assault with a Deadly Salmon”

The hammer of Deputy Eastman’s revolver was millimeters from reaching its apex and beginning its downward trajectory when Musser finally put his gun down and stepped out of the camper. “Turn around and place your hands behind your back,” instructed Eastman. Musser began to comply, then wheeled around and attempted to overtake the officer. With the other two  poachers still lying prone on the ground, [Warden Bob] Taylor and [Patrolman] Chapin ran to assist Deputy Eastman. Musser proved to be as strong as he was stupid: He was squealing like a stuck pig when Officer Chapin placed his right knee in the small of Musser’s back, applying the full force of his massive torso. Musser gasped for breath and quit resisting long enough for Eastman and Taylor to force his arms behind his back and apply the cuffs.

A Look inside Badges, Bears and Eagles: Chapter 1, “The Eagle Case”

Early on the morning of February 15, 1985, Inspector Dave Nelson, enforcement chief for the California Department of Fish and Game’s Redding office, arrived for work. As he pulled into the office parking lot, Nelson noticed a black garbage bag lying at the base of the locked west entrance gate. The bag contained a magnificent bald eagle that had obviously been shot—blood dripped from its nostrils and breast area. Attached to the eagle’s leg was an expletive-laden, handwritten note, threatening the life of Fish and Game Warden Merton Hatcher.