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Game Warden Stories: Mich. DNR Leads Rescue of Missing Hunter

Also: Bird-vehicle deaths in Iowa, weed disguised as blinds, tiger-tooth fine.

Game Warden Stories: Mich. DNR Leads Rescue of Missing Hunter

The illegal sale of this tiger tooth was uncovered by conservation officers in New York. (Photo courtesy of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

Wildlife officers, whether they're called conservation officers, rangers or game wardens, face a myriad of incidents when in the field. These game warden stories range from the serious to the ridiculous.

Michigan Officer Leads Rescue of Missing Hunter

Facing a cold rain and 40 mph winds, Michigan first responders rescued a North Carolina man who was lost and stuck in the mud on the opening weekend of the state's gun deer season.

Conservation Officer Amanda McCurdy coordinated a successful multi-agency search and rescue of the 75-year-old from Candler, N.C., who hadn't been seen since the morning at deer camp with family and friends in Benzie County. The man had a "history of health complications," according to a news report from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

"First responders faced inclement weather conditions in already challenging terrain. McCurdy’s response, with the assistance of seven other conservation officers and assisting agencies successfully resolved this search and rescue," said Chief Gary Hagler, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, in the report.

The man, who was returned safe at deer camp before midnight, did not need to go to the hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.

McCurdy, a conservation officer since 2017, received a call at 6:58 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, about the missing hunter, who had been missing from the deer camp where he and his family have been hunting every year for 20 years.

According to a news release, after weather conditions on Sunday deteriorated, the hunters decided to head back to the cabin. By the afternoon, the hunters began to realize the man was missing. They searched for him in the area he had normally hunts, but were unsuccessful. They located his vehicle, but there was no sign of him.

On the way to the scene, McCurdy called for assistance from nearby officers. She first met with the hunting group and two Benzie County deputies. They began searching for clues in two likely hunting spots. "The terrain was very difficult, thick and damp – not even navigable," said McCurdy, who requested helicopter assistance. In all, McCurdy was joined by seven conservation officers, two Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park Service rangers, Benzie County Office of Emergency Management, Frankfort Fire Department, Michigan State Police K-9 Unit, Benzie County EMS and members of the Benzie County Sheriff’s Office.

The man, who had a working flashlight, was spotted by helicopter at 8:48 p.m.; he was found stuck in the mud by a K-9. He was helped out by officers and transported back home via DNR off-road vehicle. The scene was cleared before midnight.

"This search was successful due to the overwhelming number of conservation officers and other agencies who were willing to help," McCurdy said. "It was a team effort; everyone had an important role to play to ensure this hunter didn’t spend a cold, wet and lonely night in the woods."

Read more from Michigan DNR

Tiger [Tooth] King

In New York, a Queens County man was fined for his role in the illegal sale of a tiger tooth pendant. Wildlife parts of endangered species like tigers are prohibited from sale in New York. Two NY environmental conservation officers went undercover as prospective buyers for the tooth, which was for sale for $500 on Craigslist. They met the man and charged him. He was fined $500. The tooth will be used for educational purposes. Read more NY DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights.

Follow Your Nose

(From Texas Game Warden Field Notes) Two Houston County game wardens were patrolling the northwestern end of Houston County when they entered a tract of land and saw an open field with what first appeared to be dove blinds close to a tripod feeder. One of the wardens crossed the field to check the feeder and as he got closer to the "blinds" he smelled a strong odor of marijuana.

The "blinds" were improvised grow houses for many large marijuana plants. The wardens then noticed a car parked behind bushes in front of a dilapidated house and could hear an air conditioner running. Upon further inspection around the house, the wardens found more marijuana plants.

The wardens returned to their patrol truck and called the local sheriff’s office for back up. They then returned to the site and arrested the suspect. After further investigation, the house was confirmed to be a grow house complete with lights, fertilizer, surge protectors, timers, air filters, humidifiers and water. The suspect in the house had served time for murder and transporting two kilos of cocaine across the southern border. They were also in possession of a .410 shotgun and .45 pistol. The pistol was reported as stolen. The case and suspect were turned over to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. Cases are pending. Read more Texas Game Warden Field Notes

Hundreds of Waterfowl-Vehicles Bird Deaths Reported

An unusual weather phenomena in northwest Iowa led to the deaths of hundreds of migrating waterfowl, which mistook wet-slicked parking lots and roads as wetlands. Iowa DNR reports the birds were struck and killed by vehicles.

"I counted over 200 dead ducks on the highway, and can only imagine how many dead ones were out of sight in the ditch," State Conservation Officer Steve Griebel said in a news release. "It was all different species – mostly bluebills, but there were mallards, buffleheads, teal. It must have been an epic migration."

Griebel, of Woodbury County, started getting phone calls and texts about ducks on the road around 9:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, then again early Tuesday morning.

"Situations similar to this one has been known to occur when you have extreme cold weather that collides with a strong front," said Orrin Jones, state waterfowl biologist for the Iowa DNR. "This is a unique, one-time event that there's nothing much we could do about, and should be over now."

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