Wildlife Law Enforcement

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.

California Department of Fish and Game Warden Jerry Karnow with suspected poisoned bear at an illegal marijuana grow site

Marijuana Wars and the California DFW

California Department of Fish and Game Warden Jerry Karnow with suspected poisoned bear at an illegal marijuana grow site

Fish and Wildlife Warden Jerry Karnow with a suspected poisoned bear at an illegal marijuana grow site. Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife Warden Jerry Karnow

Just after daylight in September 2014, four California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers and four Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies quietly locked their vehicles and began what was to be an arduous hike into the bone-dry Yuba River Canyon. Armed to the hilt and decked out in standard marijuana eradication attire—full camo uniforms and bulletproof vests—the officers were prepared for any eventuality. Since becoming fully engaged in the business of eradicating marijuana grows and routinely dealing with drug cartels and dangerous criminals, DFW wardens had added a new weapon to their arsenal: the POF .308 semiautomatic rifle.

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.