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Sunset over the badlands

A Day in the Life of...

Ask any game warden or conservation officer, whether from North Dakota or beyond, and they will agree that not any single day is the same. From the moment we put on the uniform we are tasked with addressing anything that can and will happen that day. Some days are mundane while others are exhilarating. Some days last four hours and others last upwards of 20.

For me, district game warden Keenan Snyder, Williston, a prime example would be the second weekend in September 2021. On this Sunday, I clocked in midmorning expecting to find a rush of boaters heading east on Highway 1804 to Lake Sakakawea, only to find fisherman along the Little Muddy River catching catfish and drum. A few of them had “forgotten” to purchase fishing licenses. Pressed hard, five copies for these forgetful anglers.

Pretty soon my phone rang from a concerned landowner regarding a vehicle parked along his property line with the registered owner having a history of placing illegal bait sites south of Williston and was cited by warden Joe Lucas. Williston and the surrounding hunting units are within chronic wasting disease restrictions. I made notes and saved pictures for further investigation for prosecution.

As quickly as I hung up the phone with the concerned landowner, I received text messages from another landowner northwest of Williston regarding dead deer that he had found on his property. This was the fourth deer he found that died of possible EHD. I documented the dead deer on the Game and Fish online wildlife mortality report. Sadly, since that weekend, I have received at least eight other notifications from this landowner of EHD mortality deer. West of Williston has been the epicenter of a bad outbreak of EHD, and landowners and hunters alike are finding a large abundance of dead deer.

Later that morning after a few more fishing compliance checks, my phone rang again, but this time it was district warden Conner Folkers. Conner was telling me about a case that he just started to work on of a dead deer in McKenzie County. I asked Conner if he needed some assistance and he accepted. No sooner than I asked, I was at the Game and Fish office in Williston putting on rubber gloves diving into a 3-hour necropsy of a very pungent smelling deer. I would love to go into details about the case, but it is still an ongoing investigation that we hope will end with a prosecution.

Later that evening after legal shooting hours, I was again finding myself with a totally different patrol task than I anticipated. I was in position overlooking the Missouri River by the Highway 85 bridge observing boats exiting the water and being loaded onto trailers at the boat ramp. I presumed these boaters to also be moose hunters based on the fact that when they walked in front of their headlights I could see them dressed head-to-toe in camouflage, which is not the typical attire of the average angler. I made notations on my notepad based on my observations at the boat ramp. I scribbled the number of people on each vessel, registration numbers and sticker year, and if any had navigation lights after sunset while operating on the water. I ended up citing one individual that came to the boat ramp well after sunset with only a headlamp visible while operating on the river. According to the hunters, many moose were observed, but none harvested.

After the last boat, I headed home only to stop and refuel my state truck. On the drive home, I pondered the day’s events of checking anglers, boaters, hunters, noting a possible investigation, talking to landowners, and necropsying a deer.

The next day I could guarantee would not be the same and that makes this job so unique.

- District Game Warden Keenan Snyder

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