This encounter with the mountain lion kitten is a tiny piece of a much larger, complex picture of what game wardens do and are responsible for.
Should wardens be out patrolling Canyon Ferry and Holter ensuring boating safety for the hundreds of people enjoying Memorial Day weekend, or trying to get weakened kitten placed into the wildlife rehab center?
Quoted from the article: http://helenair.com/news/local/in-the-hunt…
Wanted: Montana game wardens. Must be willing to work evenings and weekends, especially during hunting season, and be on call 24/7. Job includes confronting armed suspects, investigating boat crashes, searching mountains for poachers, chasing moose through cemeteries and tranquilizing bears and mountain lions.
Must know state, tribal and federal regulations inside and out, as well as have an extensive understanding of sociology, psychology and conflict management resolution. Must be a straight shooter, figuratively and literally, with a college degree.
Pay is $12.65 per hour for trainees. Starting annual salary for a full-time permanent position is $36,670, or $17.62 per hour — if you somehow manage to work only 40 hours per week.
The low pay, long hours and decreased family time was enough for Kevin Cook to leave his position last July as one of three game wardens stationed in Helena and become a Montana Highway Patrolman. Cook said being a game warden was both challenging and rewarding for him and he worked with people “second to none.” Yet he’s one of 24 wardens —about one-third of the force —who have either retired or resigned in the past five years.
“With most law enforcement positions, officers work schedules where they are allowed days off and are not subject to job-related tasks or interruptions,” Cook said. “However, game wardens are required to be in an on-call status 24/7.
Helena-based Warden Dave Loewen is living the reality of being short staffed. Three wardens typically operate out of the Helena office, but since Cook left in July and Mike Ottman retired in August, Loewen has been flying solo most of the time. His territory ranges from the Continental Divide to the top of the Big Belt Mountains, and from Wolf Creek south to Jefferson City.
His work recently included investigating a boat crash on Hauser Lake in which a man was killed by a boat propeller at 11 p.m. on a Friday night; setting up and checking on multiple traps where nuisance bears are getting too close to houses; and trying to wrap up ongoing investigations into poaching allegations, as well as doing water safety and regular patrols.
Ben Lamb, the acting director for the Montana Wildlife Federation, said the shortage of wardens going into the hunting season is a “huge concern” for his organization.
“It’s a crying shame that those guys are asked to do so much work for so little — those guys get shot at, for Christ’s sake,” Lamb said. “One of the biggest problems for hunters today is poaching. We have an amazing resource we’ve spent 100 years building and refining, and now we’re in the position that the people we entrust to enforce those laws are kind of beat down.
“If you can find seven people to fill those positions I would be shocked. You have 75 wardens for 56 counties, and some of their patrol areas are the size of Rhode Island. They usually patrol alone, often in remote areas, and how do you ensure they have the backup they need?”
Missoula News/Independent Publishing |
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