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Idaho's Conservation Officers - Battling The Odds

LEWISTON - Conservation officers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game face a formidable task in enforcing the state's hunting and fishing laws. Based on the number of licenses sold in 2001, each of the state's 100 officers is responsible for 6,500 hunters and anglers, and they patrol an average of 1000 square miles.

"Our officers do a great job, but they're spread pretty thin," said Dave Cadwallader, enforcement supervisor of the Clearwater Region. "Thanks to concerned citizens who report violations, we are better able to enforce the law."

During 2001, the 15 Clearwater Region officers contacted 11,296 hunters and anglers and detected 742 violations. Approximately 50 percent of their time was spent enforcing wildlife laws, with public education, training, assisting other department divisions and other enforcement agencies making up the rest.

Other statistics concerning Idaho's wildlife law enforcement include:

  • Twenty percent of persons issued a fish and game citation had previous criminal histories.
  • Conservation officers use 13 percent of the department's expenditures and are 17 percent of the department's personnel.
  • The sale of licenses and tags is the sole source of funding for Fish and Game enforcement.
  • Common violations include fishing without a license, fishing with prohibited tackle, fishing in a close season area, failure to carry a license, hunting during a closed season, possession of unlawfully taken wildlife, trespassing, and failure to validate big game tags.

While these statistics are interesting, Cadwallader says it's important to note that the public ultimately decides how effective the enforcement officers are.

"Our officers play a very important role in the overall mission of the Department," he said. "But only when people finally decide to follow the laws will the purpose of fish and game laws be served."