Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
Select this button stylePrint Friendly

Federal Wildlife Officer Darryn Witt and Duke. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Federal Wildlife Officer Darryn Witt and Duke. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Mentoring tomorrow’s federal wildlife officers

Assistant District Manager Mead Klavetter teaching about skins and skulls
Assistant District Manager Mead Klavetter teaching about skins and skulls. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

On April 29, 2017 law enforcement professionals from across the region spent their Saturday with 48 youth who wanted to learn more about what it takes to become a conservation officer. The group met at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge where they covered everything from forensic science to bird identification.

Known as the Youth Game Warden Camp, this day-long experience first began in 2014 at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Since then, camp organizer and federal wildlife officer Kelly Modla has worked to connect with communities all over Alaska and beyond. The camp aims to provide youth with an opportunity to connect their love of the outdoors and conservation with meaningful careers. The camp raises awareness for the need to respect wildlife and the habitats that they call home.

“Camps like this are important because they give the next generation insight into why it’s important to protect natural resources and it helps them understand how they can help protect those without a voice, the wildlife,” said Regional Law Enforcement Chief Chris Jussila.

Archery skills session. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
Archery skills session. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Modla has varied the grade and age range for groups over the last few years to get the mix of activities right. In 2014, it was presented to 4th and 5th graders and then expanded to include youth in 6th grade in 2015. Last years camp focused on 7th-9th graders and even had few 10th graders in the mix.

“The sky's the limit on what kinds of fun activities you can share with these kids. They come with lots of enthusiasm and questions and just tear it up,” said Modla.

The Sherburne camp featured hands-on sessions in forensics, boating safety, GPS, survival skills, and bird identification. The day even included a canine officer demonstration with “Duke.”

“I’ve been camping and being outside with my family since before I could walk and I’ve been hunting for about two years now,” said Hannah, age 12. “I’d love to grow up and be a game warden and teach people how to have respect for wildlife.”

Camp participant and organizers. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
Camp participant and organizers. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources made the Turn In Poachers, Inc. (TIP) educational trailer available for the event. This gave participants a chance to see what strong wildlife law enforcement looks like by touring the trailer which features confiscated taxidermy from an important poaching case that took place at the refuge.

Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge was a big help in supporting the Sherburne event. President Myrna Krueger and Vice President Dean Kleinhans assisted with special touches like participant t-shirts, mini survival tins and providing lunch.

“We are so pleased to be able to provide support and increase the community’s awareness of the refuge through this camp. Activities like this for local children are just the sort of thing that we should be working to support,” said Kleinhans.

Special thanks also go out to Treasurer Carol VanHeel for registration assistance. Modla also credits Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Services Manager Michelle Bengson with helping to promote the event with her local network educators to spread the word about the event throughout the community.

Learn more about Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/sherburne/

By Tina Shaw
Regional Office - External Affairs

Last updated: June 7, 2017