DNR Wardens On the Beat

When Duty Calls, It’s Time To Answer!

An article from WWA’s Words From The Wardens.

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s July, 2021 eNewsletter

By Joanne M. Haas, Public Information Officer, DNR Division of Public Safety and Resource Protection

Some of you have wondered what other kinds of calls the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens respond to on any given day. We thought we’d take this opportunity to provide a sampling of the vast array of situations where wardens are called to solve, rescue, figure out or just offer a helping hand. Make that a gloved hand!

WOODCHUCK: Engines are warm, and so am I!

Warden Kyle Johnson of Janesville had a recent Friday morning coffee interrupted by a call from a local auto dealer facing a stubborn woodchuck. Make that from an auto dealer who was standing at a safe distance with a dropped-jaw stare at a thickset marmot that took up residence in an engine.

The little guy, not known for his cheery attitude about life, was spotted by a mechanic completing a service job on the vehicle. Don’t you wonder what that mechanic thought when seeing the little brown butt, connected to the mound of coarse back fur, supported by the curved claws, beady eyes and long teeth. “Gee, the oil got a little thicker than expected.”

The dealership did the right thing. Back off and call a DNR warden. He’ll know what to do. And he did! Warden Kyle took a final guzzle of caffeine, grabbed his welding gloves and drove to wrestle a woodchuck.

Mr. Woodchuck was not interested in being evicted, but Warden Kyle was not deterred. A little push here and gentle pull there, followed by a couple of attempted woodchuck bites to his hands, and Warden Kyle became the official bouncer of the uninvited guest to a much more appropriate home – the outdoors.

What about those attempted bites? Remember: welding gloves are not fashion accessories.

The Case Of The Angler Who Couldn’t Take A Hint – Twice

DNR Conservation Warden Edward McCann of La Crosse and Minnesota Conservation Officer Tyler Ramaker of La Crescent were off duty and fishing in a personal boat when they observed a fisherman in a boat enter a restricted/no entry area below the dam. The two officers told the angler that he could not be in that area because it was dangerous. The fisherman ignored them, so they tried it again and repeated the safety tip. The angler scoffed and responded with a suggestion to them to “call the police.” Since they were already there, no call was needed. The two officers documented the boat information and the doubting angler later received a citation.

BADGER: I’d Back Off If I Were You!

“Uh-oh,” thought a Dane County trapper upon seeing something caught in his small foothold trap on a Sunday in late March. It was Wisconsin’s state animal, the badger.

No one wants to mess with a badger. Not only are they a protected species, these guys also have long claws and an attitude with a glare that says: “Go ahead. Make my day.” Don’t and save your day… along with your shins and ankles.  The citizen knew he needed professional help to free the fearless fighter, so he called the DNR Hotline, which sent DNR Conservation Warden Nick King to assist in the safe release.

The badger seemed to know he was being helped as he burrowed back into his den, pausing to deliver eye cannons that seemed to say: “Thanks, now back off!”

SHOTS FIRED! Warden King Flips His Switch & Is On Duty

Warden Nick King was relaxing in his home when he heard gunshots. Warden King immediately looked out his window in time to see a vehicle later determined to be involved in the drive-by shooting. Warden King quickly got into uniform and was the first officer at the crime scene as the local officer proceeded to the victim’s residence for interviews.  King assisted the local police department by initially securing the scene, locating evidence of the violations, and checking houses in the neighborhood ensuring citizens were safe.

Hit, Hospitalized, Healed: Educating tomorrow’s leaders

Back in early December, DNR Warden Ben Mott of Waushara County was called to assist with a barred owl, found with a broken wing and leg. Likely hit by a car. That night, Warden Ben coordinated to get the injured bird to Raptor Education Group Inc. in Antigo for treatment and expert care. Three months later, Warden Ben got a call from the rehabilitator with the best news! The owl was ready to return to the wild. Never one to miss an educational opportunity, Warden Ben enlisted his son to help release the owl at dusk to allow it to get its bearings while the sunset put on quite the welcome-home show.


No it’s not Florida, it’s Little Sturgeon Bay at Door County. Those are remarkable American White Pelicans having quite a day in the bay, which is part of the Green Bay waters. DNR Warden Chris Kratcha shares his photo from patrol and says this is a sure sign of summer! A sure sign of summer! Learn more about the pelicans: https://www.eekwi.org/animals/birds/american-white-pelican

Duck Needs Travel Plan

DNR Conservation Warden Erika Taylor was on duty early this year when she got a call about a lonely duck sitting on the pond in the city of Marshfield. A duck by its lonesome? Sitting on ice? When all its mates flew south? Warden Erika knew that wasn’t right.

She also knew she was going to need some teammates to help this drake mallard who couldn’t fly. She asked the Marshfield Fire Department for two ropes that could be tied together, and then dragged across the pond to nudge the duck off the unsafe ice for safe rescue.

We all know how the perfect plan sometimes goes. The duck, called Dudley by the community, had other ideas. He waddled away as the ropes approached. But he took a detour into a long culvert under the road.

Plan B: Enlist a dog. Warden Erika, who owns a two-year-old Fox Red Labrador named Sophie, was game for the job. Sophie squeezed herself into the tight culvert to convince Dudley to keep moving to the other end. Voila – here I am!

Once Dudley presented himself, Warden Erika and three city of Marshfield Ordinance officers used a fishing net to safely catch Dudley.  Dudley then was delivered by a volunteer to the Raptor Education Group Inc. in Antigo for treatment. Talk about teamwork!

Missed His Flight?

Not sure if this was a case of testing the winter waters or sleeping through his call to board, but this goose found itself on ice during the deep February freeze.

The city of Neenah Police Department was alerted to a goose that appeared to be frozen to the ice near Doty Park in Neenah. The police department contacted DNR Warden Mary Bisch, who then recruited DNR Warden Annette Swanek.

Together, they located the goose and were able to catch it.

Warden Swanek got the picture of Warden Bisch holding the goose just before they met a volunteer who transported the bird to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary for treatment.

Rice Is Up, Share the Water Path

Warden Rich Maki of Ashland reminds boaters to watch for wild rice beds.  During this time of year, the growing wild rice is lying flat on the water surface.  In July it will start growing vertically sometimes getting six feet or more above the surface. Because the wild rice is laying on the surface it is susceptible to wave action, which can pull the roots out of the lake or stream bed.

Wave action from boats can be a significant problem in some areas during this time of year.  For this reason, wardens are urging boaters to be aware of rice beds and keep their wakes at a minimum.  Some areas, such as the ones pictured in the Kagagon sloughs in Ashland County, have Slow No Wake area in place to protect them.

Wild rice is important for the ecosystem as a wildlife food and cover, and as a shoreland buffer.  It is also very important to northern communities, especially tribal communities, as a food source and a source of recreational hunting and fishing opportunities.

The Dog Made Me Do It — Literally

Wardens Joshua Loining, Luke Raitz and Lt. Mike Melgaard responded to a single unit boat crash on Prairie Lake that was initially reported as a fatality.  The lone boat operator thought his dog was going to jump out of the boat, so he quickly reached to restrain the dog when he inadvertently turned the throttle wide open on his tiller motor.  The boat, about 40 feet offshore at the time, quickly accelerated out of control and became lodged vertically into a large tree clump along the shore.  The operator sustained minor injuries.  Unknown if the dog got treats that night.

Warden Joshua Weidenhoeft and all the DNR Wardens says thanks to the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association for their continued dedication to our natural resources and partnership.

Life gets busy! Don’t forget to stop and take in a stunning Wisconsin sunset. It’s worth it.

Stay safe out there!