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Sept. 13, 2004

Adventures of the Game Warden Cadet Class of 2004

AUSTIN, Texas — This year’s game warden cadet class has fanned out across Texas since June and is encountering the tragic, the triumphant and the twisted.

Newly assigned game warden Ellis Powell was patrolling the north end of Newton County for night hunters and got behind some in their SUV on a dirt road. They had thrown their spotlight and gun and the chase was on.

"All I can say is our training really did kick in, I remained calm and did what I knew I had to do," he said. Powell lost them in the dark on the narrow road and got out and looked at their tire and skid marks and knew which way they turned. He also knew that had they turned that way, they would have to go through a certain intersection he knew a short cut to. "I high tailed to that intersection where I knew they would be. They thought they had gotten away," Powell said. He filed night hunting and felony evading charges against the men after the 12-mile pursuit, as well as a charge of making alcohol available to minor.

Or there’s the story of newly assigned Callahan County Game Warden James Brown who, in July, after just days on the job, arrested two subjects and recovered three stolen pickup trucks, a Wave Runner Jet Ski and trailer, a utility trailer, TV, DVD player and numerous other stolen items. The value of the stolen items was in excess of $80,000.

"You do your job. That’s all you can do. You don’t really expect anything for it," Brown said.

And on July 29, Chris Stautzenberger, Zavala County, also a member of the 50th cadet class, was dispatched to a county road by the Nueces River, where a 12-foot-long gator had been ran over by an 18-wheeler. However, the gator was not dead, but was badly injured. Stautzenberger had to dispatch the gator.

"I felt bad. I still feel bad. I wish I didn’t have to do that. Something that big, that lived that long — though it had to be done. There were reports that he jumped up one time and bit the bumper of a truck."

It took a front-end loader to transport the carcass. The gator’s head alone weighed 100 pounds.

Stautzenberber said he applied nine times in 13 years to be a warden before he was selected. "It is everything I thought and more."

July 10-11, new Montague County Warden Trent Herchman took six kids on an overnight trip to a private ranch near Forestburg. They were taught firearm safety and had the opportunity to shoot at clay pigeons. While out on the ranch, they came across a copperhead snake and were counseled on what action to take when encountering poisonous snakes. A good time was had by all, kids and the junior-high-age boys, who were from Wichita Falls.

On his second day on duty, Comal County Game Warden Billy Lucio assisted veteran Warden Kathleen Stuman. They rescued a 13-year-old girl who was holding on for her life to a tree in the raging waters of the Guadalupe River below Canyon Lake.

The six-month academy brought the cadets from throughout the state to Austin where they lived until graduation on June 17. The academy included 1,200 hours of instruction — including the 576-hour basic peace officer course. Game warden cadet training also includes hunting, fishing, and boating safety regulations, fish and wildlife identification, search and rescue and public speaking. The academy included field trips to ranches for training using mock scenarios and to lakes for instructions in boat operations.

The wardens also took 16 hours of Spanish as required by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, which is the licensing agency for peace officers in the state.

Lt. Col. Pete Flores of the TPWD law enforcement division, who is bilingual, said, "The ability to speak a second language is a great tool in a profession that requires the warden to communicate with people of all cultures as they hunt and fish in our state. Spanish is our predominant second language in Texas and an officer that understands the language and the culture is more effective and safe due to the increased ability to communicate. The knowledge of the culture allows the warden to avoid confrontation by recognizing cultural issues that, left ignored, might lead to a potential misunderstanding."

For more information about becoming a game warden cadet, call (877) 229-2733 or visit the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/involved/jobvac/gwcadet/).

Powell, the first new warden described here, patrols a county that is 100 miles long and has two sheriff’s deputies. He assists a lot — and in many ways.

"There’s this 65-year-old woman who calls me when she’s cooking dinner and I eat dinner with her. She lives alone. There are a lot of good people out here and it’s not a tribute to me, it’s a tribute to them. Yeah, there’s always going to be a handful of knuckle heads, but so be it," he said.

KE 2004-09-13


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