Monday, January 8, 2007

Former Wildlife Student Checks In From Alaska

"My boss and I had trapped a brown bear for a telemetry project, and we had to sit with him
as the drug wore off after we and Alaska Fish and Game radio-collared him. He wasn't happy when he got on his feet. You can see him in the background as he was circling our vehicle. Eventually he bit our tire
and popped it, then wandered off into the woods."

Former Fish and Wildlife Management Technology student David Battle recently sent an interesting letter to FWL instructor Dave Dudek concerning his experiences working in the wildlife profession since graduating from HCC in 1996. David writes:

I don't know if you remember me, but I graduated with an A.A.S. in Fish and Wildlife Management from Haywood in 1996, and you were my advisor. Haywood came to mind recently when I was doing some web searching on wildlife damage control businesses in Michigan, and noticed that the President of the Michigan Animal Damage Control Association had gone to Haywood (Haywood students just seem to crop up all over the place). I just thought I'd drop you a line to thank you for how well you and Rick prepared me for work in the wildlife management field, and to let you know what I've been up to in the past few years (you always said to keep in touch, that you like to know where your old students are). I feel
very blessed with the career I've had so far! I don't guess it's been a "typical" career. I've never worked for a state wildlife department...but have been employed in wildlife management ever since I left Haywood, through universities, a couple of federal agencies, and
one private company.

When I left Haywood (I had taken a couple of years off in the middle of my time at Haywood to work on a Northern Flying Squirrel project for Wake Forest University), I went to work for Bill Sullivan at NCSU's Mountain Research Center near Hendersonville. I worked there studying vole damage in apple orchards for two and a half years, had a wildlife damage control business on the side, then felt the pull toward Alaska. I came up on a temporary project for the Forest Service studying the effects of clearcuts on woodland voles on Wrangell Island in early 1999. When I was on Wrangell, I met another student from Haywood. I can't
remember his name now, but I believe he was in the Forestry program. You never can tell where you're going to run into Haywood students! When that project ended, my wife and I moved to Anchorage, where I worked for USDA Wildlife Services for three years. Most of my work for Wildlife Services was at Anchorage International Airport keeping moose and waterfowl away from flight lines, doing some population control on waterfowl, and generally conducting wildlife damage management on the airfield. I also helped on urban pigeon and gull projects, and was one of the project leaders at both AIA and the urban projects. I was lucky enough to be one of those kept on through the winter, primarily because I was a pretty good editor of Wildlife Hazard Assessments, and because I had some computer skills (they had me work on a few MS Access databases).

A friend who I had worked with back on Wrangell called me and asked if I'd be interested in coming to work for the Army as a Game Warden (not \as a federal employee, but working for a contract agency-most of US Army Alaska's environmental work is done by contractors). I hadn't been looking for another job, but it was considerably more money, and sounded like interesting work, so I jumped at the chance. I came to work at Fort Richardson in 2003 and was a Conservation Officer here until 2005, when they got rid of the civilian game warden program (due to internal politics at high levels) and gave the job of conservation enforcement to a couple of MPs. I hated to lose that job, but the timing couldn't have been better. I had developed a good working relationship with the main biologist here and he had just gotten a "Natural Resources Specialist" position (Technician? Biologist? I'm honestly not sure) approved, and hired me for it.

This is the best job I've had so far! I'm still a contractor, I work for Colorado State University (CSU's Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands has contracts to do environmental work on military lands all over the place). Now I mostly run the base archery and muzzleloader moose hunts (do hunter orientations, conduct proficiency tests, check moose kills), do wildlife surveys (including flying moose surveys, conducting winter tracking surveys, etc), and do any other kind of wildlife management/natural resources work that comes up. There is a tremendous amount of variety to this job. One day I'll be doing beluga
surveys, and the next I'll be collecting data on hunter-harvested moose. That means I get to meet and work with a wide variety of other natural resources agencies, from NMFS to USFWS to the State Troopers. The attached picture is of a brown bear we caught in a culvert trap this summer for a joint telemetry project with Elmendorf Air Force Base and the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game. I love my job, as I have loved all the jobs I've had in wildlife management!!

Well, thanks again for all you and the rest of the crew in the Wildlife and Forestry Departments at Haywood did to prepare me for this career. I've met and worked with many people that graduated from more "prestigious" universities, but I have never felt at all under prepared. Generally, when I have compared notes with these folks about what we actually did in school, and they hear the kinds of hands-on experience I got at Haywood, they are shocked...and often seem somewhat envious.

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