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An adult chuckwalla sunning itself at Joshua Tree National Park. Once exploited for the pet trade, native reptiles, like the chuckwalla, may no longer be sold in California.

Our Friends the Reptiles

An adult chuckwalla sunning itself at Joshua Tree National Park. Once exploited for the pet trade, native reptiles, like the chuckwalla, may no longer be sold in California.

An adult chuckwalla sunning itself at Joshua Tree National Park. Once exploited for the pet trade, native reptiles, like the chuckwalla, may no longer be sold in California. Photo by author

“I’m waiting,” taunted Darrell, his threatening mug now two inches from my face. My stomach churned and my heart pounded furiously as adrenaline coursed through my body. I had painted myself into a corner. The question crossed my mind: Was I willing to get beaten up trying to protect a lizard? While Darrell and Randy laughed at me, I remembered something my father had said. Never start a fight, but the best way to end one is to hit the other kid in the nose as hard as you can. . . .

—From The Game Warden’s Son

Elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, part of Redwood National and State Parks

Poaching in the Parks

Elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

A stately bull elk in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Photo by Kathy Callan

The recent killing of Hwange National Park’s beloved icon, Cecil the Lion, has brought to mind a number of outrageous poaching incidents that occurred right here in California—all of them inside national parks, state parks, or wildlife refuges.

Author Steven T. Callan with one of three orphaned black bear cubs, circa 1981

Those Wonderful Wildlife Caregivers

Author Steven T. Callan with one of three orphaned black bear cubs, circa 1981

Author with one of three orphaned black bear cubs, circa 1981. Photo courtesy of author

One of the more disheartening, sometimes discouraging, aspects of a wildlife officer’s job is dealing with injured, orphaned, or imprinted wildlife that cannot be released back into the wild. Wildlife rehabilitation facilities, most of them operated by dedicated volunteers, are generally equipped to care for birds and small mammals, but not for large potentially dangerous carnivores such as bears, mountain lions, and exotic big cats.