Federal Wildlife Officer
Date: August 27, 2014
Place: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, MD
Interview: Gabriel Harper, Federal Wildlife Officer
Meet Gabriel, an officer that protects wildlife for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Learn about his tools and what he does on patrol.
We see wildlife [wild animals] all around us, you know, all the time and they see us. You come outside and you might see some deer or even a box turtle out by the lake. You might look up in the sky and see an eagle or osprey. All of these things need to be protected.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our primary purpose [is] to conserve, protect the habitat for wildlife. We have to have the type of law enforcement [making sure people obey the law], you know, to go about regulating [maintaining] those rules.
What's your day like?
This is my office. Coming outside every day, you know, breathing this fresh air. I live on the refuge, I come outside. I take a little lap around just to see what's going on. And then I can deal with anything from helping with a fishing group, kids that come on the refuge [that] want to learn about fishing, archery, different things like that, hunting.
What do you do on patrol?
When I go out on a patrol, it can be anything from a vehicle patrol to a foot patrol. On foot patrols, like I said, going out into the refuge, different areas of the woods; also different bike paths. Just seeing what's going on. You know, introducing myself to different visitors, making sure they're safe, making sure they're not lost. Checking hunters as well as fisherman.
And on a vehicle patrol, just making sure that everybody is going the correct speed limit out there. I mean we have specific speed limits to make sure that no one hits wildlife.
What equipment do you use most for your job?
I have my trusty GPS that I can just clip on me and I can make sure that I get back to the, to my truck when I need to. 13,000 acres is a lot of woods. You know you do a few turns around and you don't know where you're heading.
There was one time when I went off. I was looking for a hunter and I couldn't find him and I also couldn't find my way back. You know so the moral of the story is to always be prepared. Come with the compass, come with a GPS and I routinely, now make sure I have a compass or GPS on me when I'm doing my different patrols, You know, just so I can make sure that I'm not the one that's lost.
What other tools do you use?
There's 13,000 acres at Patuxent Research Refuge, so I can't be everywhere. So I have these cameras set up. These are hunt cams where I can set up on [in] different areas of the border and I can see what's going on. And they can be my eyes when I'm not around.
Is this the career for you?
If you feel the need that you want to protect the resource and wildlife, then a federal wildlife officer would be a perfect line of work for you.
I love what I do. It gets me up out of bed everyday and I don't regret a day of work ever. So if you like playing outside right now, imagine doing it when you're older.