The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across a keyboard

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I'm Game! An Interview with a Game Warden - Information for Writers

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In this article we are speaking with Roger Guay and Kate Flora who collaborated on the book A Good Man with a Dog

Can you start Roger by telling me about your background

Roger - 
The book is about a Game Wardens life in the real world the good the bad and the ugly. Most people see this field of Law enforcement as the wander around and take care of baby animals stuff but its the furthest from the truth.

Fiona -
What is a Game Warden's job description? How did you decide this was the career for you?

Roger - 
Game Wardens or Conservation Officers duties vary from state to province; but here in Maine, we enforce hunting fishing and recreational vehicles and look for and recover all missing people missing in the fields and forest of the state. We have full police powers and duties.

Growing up I was trained to avoid wardens at all cost. But I grew older and saw what they stood for and protected.  I met a guy dying of cancer and spent time talking to him about what mattered in his life. Then when my father died in a drowning accident, a warden befriended me. That's when I understood what wardens were about.

My family background was guiding and working for the Canadian pacific rail. I worked as a forester scaler before getting hired.

Fiona - 
Would you be willing to share the insights you gleaned from the man who spoke with you about his end of life thoughts with you?

What moved you towards this kind of work from that interaction?

Roger - 

He began to reflect on his life as a mentor and wanted me to understand what was and was not important in life. His memories he had made with his family hunting and fishing and the adventures in the outdoors were the only thing that had value to him in his final months.

Fiona -
So you became a games warden - what personality traits do you think serve you best in your job?

Roger -
Hate the sin not the sinner best weird way to put it. A lot of poachers love the outdoor resources and were for the most part nice people, but their view of the glass was half full instead of half empty. To preserve our wildlife for future generations, we need the cup to filling up not emptying down. Make sense?

Fiona - 
Yes thank you. (To read more about WILDLIFE FORENSICS go HERE)

Fiona - 
When do you start your day? When does it end?

Roger - 
A wardens day is tied to the season not a clock. Its all about keeping an eye on vulnerable exposure to fish and critters. for example smelts are running here right now they run up small streams at night to lay eggs if no one protects them they will all be caught and the smelt run will be no more affecting all the fish in the lake. So you have no clock you work cycles of life.

So you may sit all night on a brook and chase illegal bear hunters the next day

Fiona - 
So based on the calendar you are guarding certain aspects of wildlife - and the help the people who are enjoying wildlife do so responsibly. Sometimes people go missing. Can you tell me how/when you are called in and what the procedures are?

Roger -
In the state of Maine, we would average about a search a day for a missing person. Wandering toddlers, to drug overdose, to suicide-suspicious disappearances etc. Game Wardens in Maine have the jurisdiction by law to run these operations if it is determined that the missing persons are likely in the field.We work with all the involved agencies to get the person back safe and sound. Calls usually will come thru 911 and will be dispatched from there.

Fiona - 

How successful are authorities in finding the people alive?

Roger -
There are a lot of variables that effect the outcome of a search and its success:
  • Weather 
  • Terrain 
  • Physical health of victim 
  • Experience 
  • Clothing 
  • Mental state ect. 
Most cases, say 90%, that are called in quickley are found with three hours. 

Alive 95% of the time.

Fiona - 
Can you tell me the requirements (educational etc) to become a game warden and what training included.

Roger - 
In Maine you are not required to have a degree to become a warden but reality is that without one or military time the chances of making the cut is very slim. You have to pass a written test a physical test a two oral boards and then full background and polygraph. If you make it through that, you go to the academy for 26 weeks, then you are on probation for a year. Its a long hard road.

Fiona -
This is writer Kate Flora who collaborated on the book with Roger.

How did the two of you meet and how did the idea for this project come about?

Kate - 
I've done two previous nonfiction books, Finding Amy and Death Dealer, and both of those books involved the Maine warden service and trained cadaver dogs. 

Roger was a K9 handler in both cases. In Finding Amy, his dog's behavior at the burial site both confirmed the presence of the body and also located the site where the body had lain for two days before being buried, which corroborated the suspect's confession to his mother about the details of the crime. I was working on the second case when Roger called and said he liked what I did in Finding Amy, and he'd just retired. People had always told him he had great stories and should write them down but he didn't know how, so I said, "Let's talk." We did..and A Good Man with Dog started to evolve.

Fiona - 
So what did you learn about his job that you found to be the most interesting? Did you get to follow him around?

Kate -

Actually, so many things about is job were fascinating. We did the initial interviews driving around one of his former patrol areas near Greenville, Maine in a pickup truck. I held the recorder, and every time we turned a corner, he'd say: I had a plane crash here, or a snowmobile accident there, or something. We were on a maze of dirt logging roads and everywhere, there was story. 

I started out thinking that this was going to be a collection of cute fish and game stories...bad fishermen, poachers, etc. But I learned a ton about the reasons for protecting these resources and how easily they can be wiped out. I realized we were talking about a world where everyone carried guns. And then, he started talking about recognizing the value of dogs to the work they did (the warden service was phasing out their K9 program at that time) and how he and his first dog bonded and the amazing things they could do.

Along the way, I trudged through the woods, went to warden K9 trainings, went to other K9 trainings, etc. Got lost in the woods, so I could be found by dogs.

As he told the story, it was kind of an evolution...from lost people to people who were deceased but the dogs didn't find them because they didn't have cadaver training, and then the discussion about how he would use the dogs to reconstruct shooting scenes.

And a little bit more: One thing that was fascinating was all the stories about how they used the dogs to find evidence--fish and game, but also spent shell casings, guns thrown away by fleeing criminals, finding where the shooter was standing, where the animal was when it was shot, and where it fell...a whole lot of what we call Canine CSI.

Fiona -
Very cool - how does that work?

Kate - 
The dogs are trained to find many things, depending on what command is given. There will be one command for finding live human scent, another for finding a cadaver. There may be special commands for finding fish or finding game; and then, for the evidence searches, the dogs may be training to find anything with a human scent, such a discarded cigarettes, trash, food wrappers, etc, but also to find anything with brass or gunpowder scents, so they can find shotgun wads, spent shells, or even a handgun that has been thrown away. He has one amazing story of searching for an unexpected tranquilizer dart that missed the moose and was somewhere in a huge playground. If a child had found it, it would have been lethal.

Fiona - 

Oh? What happened?

There was a sick moose hanging around the playground, so the state biologist came out with a tranquilizer gun loaded with enough stuff to put down a moose...he shot and missed and the dart landed somewhere in the grass. The humans couldn't find it, so they brought in Roger and his dog and they searched and found it.

Fiona - 
can you talk about Roger's dogs and evidence searches?

Kate - 

Okay. Evidence searches. Because of the many abilities that a search dog can acquire, they can become significant resources for helping to find evidence that may be scattered over a very large outdoors area. Roger's dog was trained to find live humans, cadavers, cadavers that are in water, as well as fish that were illegally poached and often hidden by fishermen in snowbanks or in their vehicles or near their fishing sites. Because of the dog's ability to find spent casings, they could be used to show where the shooter was standing, and locate spent shells which could link a particular gun to a particular shooting event.


Also, the dogs are good at scenting humans and animals and blood, so in recreating a crime, they can locate, via the human scent/spent shells, etc. where the shooter was standing, and then the place where the human or animal was struck by the bullet, and the place where the animal (this is game warden work, after all) fell.

Fiona - 
And he puts a GPS coordinate down? How does he map this information?

Kate - 
Searches are generally done with a hand-held GPS device which can locate all of these areas on a map. A lot of the mapping for major searches is done by a mapping expert with the warden service, particularly on a large area search where the search areas are assigned, cleared, and mapped so they can keep track of the areas that were searched.

Fiona - 

Are these the kinds of things one learns in the book A Good Man with a Dog?

Kate - 
Absolutely. The book is full of lore about the dog's training and expertise, but also about real crime scene reconstruction, both human and animal. Mostly animal. There is a lot of the training lore, as well, in Death Dealer: How cops and cadaver dogs brought a killer to justice.

www.roger.guay.com 
@RGAuthor 
@kateflora

Fiona - 
Can you tell us one of Roger's harrowing stories?

Kate - 
Harrowing story? Well, how about this one: One day he's out on patrol and he sees a known poacher step into the road with a gun. This guy is also a known drug dealer and all around bad guy. Roger stops to check on him, thinking perhaps he's going to have his chance to nail him at last, but as they are talking, five or six the man's friends, also toting rifles, step out of the woods and surround him. And while they are not exactly aiming their guns at him, their guns are not pointing toward the ground and away, and it is clear that if he makes a wrong move, he's going to be shot. He has to deescalate the situation and walk away. Those events were not uncommon...the book is full of scary stories because this is a world of guns.

Fiona - 
Thank you so much Kate and Roger for this information.

If you'd like to stay in touch with them:
@RGAuthor 
@kateflora

And as always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


1 comment:

  1. Love this quote: "So you have no clock you work cycles of life." That's a great take on what he does and an interesting concept for a story.

    ReplyDelete