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Three helpful tips to remember when interacting with your local conservation officers

With most hunting seasons being open or opening within the next few weeks, Idaho’s hunting, fishing and trapping culture will soon be enjoyed by many.

Amidst the hustle and bustle this time of year, Idaho Fish and Game’s conservation officers are also hitting the woods to help keep people safe and to ensure Idaho’s wildlife resources are enjoyed safely, ethically and sustainably.

If you’ve spent much time hunting, fishing, trapping or otherwise recreating in Idaho’s great outdoors, you’ve probably bumped into a conservation officer. Hopefully for most, the visit was pleasant, productive and ended with a handshake!

Fish and Game Conservation Officer contacting a sportsmen

A recent interview with Conservation Officer Jacob Berl in the Panhandle Region provided three helpful tips for interacting with officers.

Conservation Officer Jacob Berl in the field

Question: What do you hope for when interacting with folks while on the clock?
Answer: “My guess is that most folks have had the opportunity to chat with a conservation officer at some point in their outdoor career. Although these interactions are usually friendly and benign, folks often report feeling uneasy during interactions with law enforcement. Interactions with conservation officers don’t need to be stressful. In fact, they should be quite the opposite! After all, most people we connect with are law-abiding sportsmen enjoying the great outdoors.”

Conservation Officer Jacob Berl speaking to a group of children

Question: What tips would you give folks for interacting with their local conservation officer?
Answer: "I have three practical tips to offer, and these tips should make interactions more pleasant and productive for both sportsmen and officers.

Tip 1: Be kind and patient

  • When making a contact, we usually don’t know who we are dealing with—a license check could simply be a grandparent taking kids fishing, or it could be a felon on the run who decided to get off the grid. This uncertainty adds to the challenge and danger of our jobs. The best approach during a contact is simply to be kind, patient and understanding - all qualities you can expect from your local conservation officer, as well. Our goal is to treat all citizens fairly. All good relationships are built on honesty and trust, and your relationship with your local game warden should be no different.

Tip 2: Ask questions

  • I’m sure most folks have heard the age-old adage, “there is no such thing as a dumb question”. Well in the world of wildlife and law enforcement, those words might as well be scripture. Our job is to assist sportsmen in their understanding of Fish and Game rules and regulations. In a perfect world, everyone would know, understand and properly follow regulations, and I’d be out of a job! However, regulations can be complex and confusing, despite our best efforts to simplify them whenever possible. Sometimes mistakes are made and if you don’t ask questions, you’ll never get an answer. What better time to ask questions than when you have a conservation officer standing right in front of you? We aren’t encyclopedias of knowledge, but chances are, we can answer most of your questions about the do’s and don’ts and perhaps even share a tidbit about the next fishing hole around the corner. You just have to ask!

Tip 3: Help by reporting violations

  • Most ethical hunters, anglers and trappers will tell you that nothing upsets them more than seeing others abuse the wildlife and natural resources that we all collectively love. I couldn’t agree more. It’s no secret that we can’t be everywhere at the same time, and wildlife can’t speak for themselves. So we need you to be the eyes and ears, do what’s right and report wildlife crimes. It’s that simple. Reports of wildlife crimes can be made anonymously through our Citizens Against Poaching hotline (1-800-632-5999) or online.”

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Question: Any parting words for people?

Answer: “Research shows that those who know, trust and have developed a relationship with their local conservation officer are more likely to report wildlife crimes when they see them. A great time to foster that relationship is the next time you’re contacted by a conservation officer. If you know of or suspect wildlife crimes, please consider sharing your information with an officer the next time you see them. I can guarantee they will appreciate what you have to share, and more importantly, so will the wildlife.”

Interactions with an Idaho conservation officer should be positive and improve your outdoor experience. Hopefully by keeping these three simple tips in mind, you’ll be more at ease and better prepared for the next time you see an officer in the field.

Please call the your local Fish and Game Regional Office with any questions.