Senior Special Agent Dorothy "Dede" Manera
Headquarters, Special Operations Division, Special Investigations Unit

“One statement I like to live by is, “Never take ‘No’ for an answer.”  I find that my advice to my children is very similar to advice I give to younger Service employees (LOL!).  There will always be someone or something blocking the way to your goals. Remain focused on where you are going, but remember that the path to get there may not be a straight line.  You have to keep an open mind and be willing to adapt your plans.  There is always a way,” Senior Special Agent Dede Manera.

What is your primary work focus?

I have been working as a special agent with the Service since May of 1992.  I currently work in the OLE’s Special Investigation Unit.  This unit is comprised of a team of agents focused on investigating large-scale transnational criminal trafficking networks involved in the illegal commercialization of wildlife and wildlife products.  The investigations conducted by the unit are supported by OLE special agents in the field and those assigned to the International Operations Unit; wildlife inspectors; law enforcement professionals who work for other government law enforcement agencies and foreign agencies; and staff at partner non-governmental organizations.  

What was your career path that brought you to the Service?

I had recently graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and had set my sights on a special agent position with the DEA.  At that time, the DEA had a hiring freeze, so I tried other avenues to land a position as a government investigator and I discovered there was a federal civil service test offered to obtain law enforcement jobs with the federal government.  I took the test and selected various agencies to receive my scores.  Little did I know that when I checked the block labeled “game law enforcement” it would be the start of an almost 30-year career with the Service.  Even though I barely knew a thing about being a Service special agent, once I completed the training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and began working in the field, I fell in love with the job.  I am happy to say almost three decades later, my passion to support the mission of the Service and investigate wildlife crimes is alive and well and I do not think there are many folks who can say they love their job and feel fresh after so many years of service.

Why do you believe your job makes a positive difference?

A special agent position allows you to make a positive impact on many levels.  Successful investigations often lead to successful prosecutions of those trafficking in protected wildlife.  Service agents have been very successful in apprehending and prosecuting both domestic and international wildlife traffickers.  These successful investigations set an example for our domestic and foreign wildlife enforcement counterparts.  The fact that Service agents can document the illegal activities of wildlife criminals in other countries, and go on to facilitate the prosecution and apprehension of these individuals, is a major threat to wildlife trafficking networks and a motivating factor for many of our foreign counterparts.  I believe Service special agents are the driving force of wildlife protection in the U.S. and abroad.  The work we do as special agents has the ability to impact wildlife enforcement globally - no criminal is untouchable no matter where they try to hide.

What are you most proud of? 

Over the years, the most rewarding times have been when I received a call from one of my peers thanking me for something that they learned while working with me.  After nearly 30 years, I am not even close to knowing everything you need to know as a Service special agent, but I have gained some useful knowledge.  Sharing tips and tricks I have learned over the years by making my own mistakes, may help someone else avoid the same pitfalls I experienced. I am most proud of successfully raising two awesome children and instilling in them a passion for wildlife and maintaining my marriage during these past 29 plus years of employment.  Juggling work and being a mom is a challenge in any line of work, but in this position, it can be especially challenging. 

What challenges did you overcome to get where you are today and what advice would you give to a young woman who is thinking about pursuing a career in wildlife law enforcement? 

When I began my career in 1992, I was one of only six female Service special agents in the country.  I was determined to prove that I could I do the job just as well as any man.  I created my own pressure to perform…. I wanted to prove myself and show that I could successfully perform the job.  I always felt respected and included by my male counterparts from the first day I started, but I was well aware this was a field where women were not the norm.  I never complained, performed to the best of my ability every day, soaked in every bit of knowledge from my co-workers, and did my best to keep a smile on my face.  Looking back, this is the advice that I would give to any new agent hire, man or woman.

- Interviewed and written by Senior Special Agent Lori Choquette, OLE Comms Team

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