Tuesday evenings with the DNR Reports
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Every week I spend the better part of Tuesday proofreading and editing stories and submissions to prepare for our Wednesday press day. I can usually count on being in my office for a long stretch that day, so at around 5 p.m. I take off my shoes, make a fresh pot of coffee, put on some music and settle in. I’d put on my pajamas if I could.
I make my way through everything in the file, re-arranging paragraphs and adding or deleting words so that stories have a linear flow. When that’s all done, it’s time for my little reward: the DNR Reports.
Now, let’s be clear, I wouldn’t know a grouse from a wild turkey or even a shotgun from a rifle, but the accounts of conservation officers’ weeks fascinate me. Sometimes they’re a reminder that I’m not the only one who experiences temporary lapses of common sense and sometimes they affirm what we already know about law enforcement; it can be a dangerous, thankless job. By all appearances, however, it is rarely dull.
Take this gem from January that I can relate to having been temporarily stranded in the snow, each time somewhat ill-prepared, three times this year:
“Conservation Officer Marty Stage reported that a passenger car was found stuck way back on an unplowed road up the Echo trail. The driver inside was wearing tennis shoes without socks. When asked what had possessed him to drive so far down such a road in the middle of winter and thus risk his life, he said he knew it was a road from when he had been there the previous summer.”
Later that same month, in the midst of debate and concern about the declining moose population in northern Minnesota, there was this one:
“Conservation Officer Darin Fagerman observed free trade in nature during the week. One day he saw three moose crossing from Ontario to Minnesota. A short time later he observed a pack of wolf tracks heading to Ontario. Add three to the moose count.”
Good for the moose. Last October, however, there wasn’t quite as much free trade as an angler envisioned:
“Conservation Officer Mary Manning reported that salmon are running in Lake Superior tributaries and anglers were numerous. One angler she checked was relieved when the officer walked into the river to retrieve a Rapala lure that he had hooked on a rock. “You just saved me four bucks!” He declared. He was not so happy when she replied, “Well, not exactly,” and proceeded to explain regulations regarding single hook requirements and then provide him with appropriate paperwork.”
I can just picture the guy’s face, but I’m guessing he’s getting a lot of mileage out of that story.
There’s no doubt that officers face dangers as they go about their duties. In this account, a four-footed expert was dispatched to help sniff out evidence after an altercation:
“Conservation Officer Scott Staples (Carlton) reported that assistance was given to a neighboring officer in investigating a wolf that was taken illegally in the area. K9 Schody was called to assist in locating evidence for Cloquet Police Department. A person that had pointed a rifle at a police officer in the woods was apprehended, but only parts of the rifle were located. To help the officer’s case, K9 Schody was able to locate and retrieve other parts that were buried in the snow.”
By far my favorite last year was this one from the Dec. 24 report:
“Conservation Officer Don Murray settled into his new station and checked ATV traffic moving ice shelters onto area lakes. While in Two Harbors a young traveler about five years old approached the officer and excitedly reported that he had just seen several of Santa’s reindeer along Hwy 61 while traveling north for Christmas. Much to his father’s delight, the officer agreed that the sightings of the deer meant that Santa certainly could not be far away.”
As illustrated, officers can face situations that require bravery, problem solving ability and decisive action in order to save lives, their own or those of others. In this case, an officer’s quick thinking kept alive something equally precious: a little one’s sense of wonder and excitement.