Agents in Action

“I guess this is your busy time,” or “You guys are sure earning your pay now.”

During deer season, if a conservation agent hears such comments once, they hear them a hundred times. But deer season is just the busiest time in a job full of busy times. So, just what does a conservation agent do the rest of the year?

In addition to law enforcement, which is a year-round job, agents conduct or attend public meetings, put on programs in local schools, teach Hunter Education, appear on radio and television broadcasts, write newspaper articles, arrange and staff exhibits at fishing fairs and other events, visit landowners' property to give resource management recommendations, and answer a variety of conservation-related questions, both face-to-face and over the phone. The box on page 13 gives an idea of the many ways agents fulfill their mission of protecting Missouri’s conservation resources.

Some people might wonder why agents are used in so many ways instead of being allowed to spend all their time patrolling for violators. The fact is that punishing wrongdoers is just a part of the larger goal of every agent, which is to get everyone to comply with our wildlife regulations. Reaching out to teach the public about why such regulations are necessary to protect wildlife is an important step in achieving their primary goal.

Outreach and education efforts fail to persuade a small percentage of people, however. That’s why conservation agents continue to work hard at law enforcement, not just during the “busy” times of deer and turkey seasons but year-round. As is the case with their education efforts, the range of their law enforcement duties defies description. However, the following summaries of cases should convince you that when it comes to law enforcement, conservation agents never have an off-season.

Bat Cave

Early one September evening, Wright County Conservation Agent Keith Wollard received a phone call from someone who’d heard several gunshots near Big Smittle Cave and saw a pickup with two people in it leaving the vicinity.

When he went to the area, Agent Wollard found some empty shotgun shells in the road. He also discovered several dead gray bats, a state- and federal-endangered species, in the road and in surrounding vegetation.

The next day, Agent Wollard was able to locate one of the responsible parties. The man explained that he and a friend had been dove hunting near the area earlier and hadn’t had any luck. On their