Happy Holidays from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Warden Service!

We’ll often hear a WDNR conservation warden say, “No two days are the same.” That’s true in any season in Wisconsin – where the natural resources are incredible, the people are active and the wardens are ready to respond.

As we approach the end of the year and the decade, the wardens pulled a few highlights from their community-service experiences to share during the holiday season.

Conservation Warden Clark Delzer was walking among the jammed parking areas surrounding a Shawano County public hunting area on opening day of the 2019 gun-deer season when he was a bit stunned by what he saw.

“I see this dog running up to me,” Delzer said of a golden retriever that seemed to be all alone and happy to see a potential new pal. “Who takes a golden retriever out on opening day and then lets it out of their sight?”

A breed known for retrieving shot waterfowl with a general all-around friendly and intelligent nature, the retriever came bounding to Delzer to say, “Hello, pet me now!” as dogs tend to do.

“Hey buddy, you don’t have orange on and you kinda look like a deer,” Delzer said to the dog, who he encountered at a dead end of the road leading into the hunting acres.

So the warden and the dog started walking the road, hoping to find its owner still in one of the vehicles. No luck. He turned around and saw the dog returning to its apparent original trek of heading into the woods. That was a bad move considering how much the dog could have been mistaken for a deer.

“This is not safe,” Delzer said as he made a dash for his truck.

He swung open the passenger door of his warden truck and whistled to the dog to come back. It did, dropping its rear a bit, but stopped short of jumping in. Delzer said he could sense the dog’s desire to jump in, but from the ground up into a truck seat would be a big leap for an older dog.

“I scooped him up and put him in my front passenger seat,” he said. “He loved it there. He rode shotgun as I drove and made phone calls.”

Delzer couldn’t find an owner’s tag on the dog but there was a rabies tag with a phone number.

“It was to an Iowa veterinary office,” he said. “And they answered – at 7:30 in the morning!”

Thanks to the Iowa office staff, Delzer got the owner’s phone number. He called and left a voice mail. But he was driving in the area when he came upon a hunting cabin with the door open.

“This must be it,” he thought to himself.

He didn’t need to wait too long before someone appeared and said, “Oh that’s Keystone. He must’ve gotten out.”

Happily Keystone – who apparently needs no key to escape – was back with the owners. Sadly Delzer lost his co-pilot.

“He was a sweet dog and really cute,” he said.

But Keystone lives on in his memory – and on his passenger seat.

“I’m still cleaning out the dog hair,” he said.

Cover-up solved – bandit caught on camera

Wardens receive all sorts of calls for help from citizens facing ... well, you name it. Warden Matt Koshollek of Drummond received a call from a citizen who was frustrated by the appearance of someone being mischievous with bear bait. The citizen complained day after day that the bait was being covered with sand. Who was behind the cover-up? A trail camera was put in place to determine who was behind the sandy act. After one night the mystery was solved as they watched the evidence unfold. Waddling up to cover the bait was – a badger.

Ticket brings real-life lesson

Warden Nick King of Green County saw a utility-terrain vehicle operating on a public trail with three passengers. None were wearing seatbelts. One of the passengers was 6 years old and was not wearing a helmet as required.

So King issued a safety-violation citation – much to the chagrin of the vehicle operator who also was the child’s grandfather. He called King’s supervisor to complain. A week or so later King was called to an accident that involved the same 6-year-old – who this time was wearing a helmet. King again spoke with the grandfather, who was in tears saying he understood the helmet requirement. It was the helmet that likely saved the child’s life.

Wardens ring in, shop all sorts of holiday help

When it comes to the annual holiday season, WDNR wardens are ready to help community groups support citizens who may need a boost. Wardens were seen ringing red bells for the Salvation Army, talking with customers at Culver’s for the “Lights for Christmas” effort and paired with children for the “Shop with a Cop” event.

Lights for Christmas, started in 2016, is a northeast-Wisconsin program that raises funds for gift cards and backpacks full of items to help the homeless and others in need. Officers were asked to help spread the Lights for Christmas word to diners at Culver's. The program then provided items for law-enforcement officers to distribute in the region. 

Every year wardens statewide partner with local groups to participate in the Shop with a Cop events. It pairs officers with children to help them shop for gifts for family members.

Warden Joe Paul is active in helping the Oconto River Kids, a non-profit charitable organization that provides hunting and fishing opportunities for kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It started in 2012; Paul has been instrumental in helping kids and their families since it started. 

From all the wardens, enjoy the season and all the incredible outdoor fun to be had in Wisconsin. Stay safe out there!

For anyone who has information regarding a natural-resource violations, confidentially report it by calling or texting VIOLATION HOTLINE, 800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trained staff relay reported information to conservation wardens.

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Joanne M. Haas is a program and policy analyst with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement. Visit dnr.wi.gov for more information.