April 21, 2003
A Florida native has been recognized for three decades of wildlife law enforcement, including successful efforts at protecting the country’s national symbol.
During the 2003 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Winston Salem, North Carolina, state and federal wildlife officials recognized Kuncir’s successes as a criminal investigator and in combating threats to wildlife resources. During 23-years with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Special Agent Kuncir has conducted investigations in Virginia, Maryland, California, Alaska and, since 1997, on Florida’s gulf coast.
Kuncir grew up in the town of Eustis, Florida, where he was an avid hunter and fisherman. After being stationed overseas in the U.S. Army, the young veteran returned home to join the U.S. Forest Service, working as a fire boss and enforcement specialist. Later after a stint in the National Park Service, Kuncir became a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1980.
His investigation into bald eagle deaths on Maryland’s Eastern Shore documented misuse of the pesticide carbofuran, prompting the withdrawal of the registration for the pesticide’s granular form in certain agricultural uses, in the process removing threats to eagles and other birds in several eastern States.
“Agent Kuncir's career shows that one man can truly make a difference," says U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams. “His efforts to safeguard wildlife have benefited bald eagles, migratory birds, manatees, and other species as well as the millions of Americans who treasure wildlife resources.
Kuncir’s work on Chesapeake Bay also included a Federal/State investigation into large-scale over-harvesting of striped bass, leading to new resource management efforts to restore striper populations for both sport and commercial fishing.
In California, the special agent focused attention on the importance of habitat conservation in the recovery of endangered species. His investigations of eagle electrocutions prompted a major electric utility to modify its power distribution equipment. To further protect migratory birds, Kuncir organized a multi-agency task force that inspected some 1,700 oil production sites and secured industry cooperation in removing deadly hazards threatening migratory birds.
“Since banding my first two eaglets in 1985, our nation’s symbol has been one of my highest concerns,” says Kuncir, “I’ve seen a varied number of impacts to bald and golden eagle populations over the years. These include past threats like D-D-T, and today’s pressures like illegal harvesting and the impacts of growing human populations in historic nesting areas along streams and rivers.”
Since moving back to Florida seven years ago, Kuncir has worked out of the Service’s Fort Myers office, investigating pesticide abuse, avian powerline electrocutions, illegal waterfowl hunting, and the unlawful trapping of protected birds.
“Mine’s been an enviable career,” says the 53 year-old Kuncir. “My conservation enforcement career actually spans 31 years, including the last 23 with the Fish and Wildlife Service.” And while the past two decades hasn’t allowed much time for hunting and fishing, he says every single minute’s been rewarding, including all the 18-hour days tracking through wild locales as far away from the Sunshine State as across the Canadian border.
While currently still living in Florida, Kuncir is leaving Fort Myers for the Orlando area. Here, he will take on the task of coordinating Service efforts to protect endangered manatees. His hopes are to reduce the number of their deaths due to collisions with speeding watercraft.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy populations of fish, wildlife, and plants within their respective habitats. The Foundation’s Guy Bradley Award is named after the first wildlife officer killed in the line of duty, and is presented to recognize outstanding lifetime contributions in wildlife law enforcement.
"Special Agent Kuncir and his Federal and State counterparts risk their lives every day to uphold wildlife protection laws in this country,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Williams concluded. “We are proud that one of our agents has won this prestigious award and join the Foundation in applauding the contributions that law enforcement officers make to wildlife conservation throughout this country.”
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is, working with others, to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The South Florida field office is a unit of the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, based in Atlanta.
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