The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Sixteen game wardens have lost their lives in the line of duty in Texas over the years.
This includes local warden Mike Pauling who died in a tragic incident while offering roadside assistance in 2001 and J.D. Murphree who was killed by a duck poacher in 1963 in Jasper County.
Our local wildlife management area of course was named in his honor.
All peace officers risk their lives every time they are on the job and deserve our admiration however; game wardens face the unique situation of distant isolation.
Imagine patrolling one of East Texas’ many lonely dirt roads by yourself at night when you see lights shining over a clear cut. The area has a history of poaching and other criminal activity and it is your duty to investigate despite the fact you are 10 miles from pavement by yourself.
This is the reality game wardens face.
Try to envision patrolling the Gulf of Mexico which in and of itself is dangerous and boarding shrimping vessels and both commercial and recreational boats. Most are obeying the law, some may earn minor fines for under-sized fish or a similar infraction but there are darker scenarios.
Issues like piracy are now at the forefront along our Mexican border as are illegal fishing fleets and other criminal elements. In the name of protecting our natural resources, these and many others are the kinds of threats they face.
Yes, they are paid to do so but there are many jobs that pay a whole lot more and have far fewer hazards. Game wardens like police officers, firemen and other emergency responders do it because they believe in the cause. They have a love for the outdoors that inspires them to go through the training and prepare for a unique life in law enforcement.
They believe in it enough to not only put their lives on the line but also spend lots of time away from their family and accept the fact they may be moved around the state frequently.
It is a tough job and often a thankless one.
I am sure most of us have grumbled a complaint or two about wardens over the years without stopping to think about their sacrifice.
The fact is someone has to do their job.
Our natural resources are extremely important and without the presence of wardens I have no doubt poachers would have knocked down the deer population in our region to unhuntable numbers years ago. In addition, there would be a huge black market in illegally caught fish targeted by unscrupulous commercial interests.
Would you take a bullet for a deer or a speckled trout?
In essence, game wardens make that decision and every one who chooses this profession know it could happen to them. That is a love for the resource like few have.
Actually, it is a love few dare to have.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.)