Giving a voice to wildlife through law enforcement

A woman drives a small motorboat along a dock with a man passenger.

We continue our series on women in conservation for Women’s History Month. Today we hear from Kathryn McCabe, a special agent from the Valley Stream, New York, office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.  

Kathryn has worked with the Service since 2009. Just a year into her career with the agency, she responded to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Louisiana. There, she was inspired by how Service employees came together to work long hours in difficult conditions. Every day, she looks forward to working with passionate and dedicated people who share common goals of protecting and preserving wildlife. Hundreds of seized ivory jewelry and carvings on a black tablecloth

Special Agent Kathryn McCabe gives a voice to threatened and endangered animals such as elephants. Credit: New York State of Environmental Conservation

Q: How does your work impact wildlife and conservation, and what is most rewarding about your work to you?

A: One of my favorite parts of the job is educating the public about wildlife and conservation law through speaking at outreach events or making contacts in the field.

We encounter individuals who intentionally violate laws protecting wildlife, including endangered and threatened species. We’re often able to educate these people and prevent them from exploiting wildlife again. Some of our investigations lead to criminal prosecutions and fines assessed are usually directed to  wildlife conservation funds.

Click here to read about an ivory case Kathryn helped investigate!

Wildlife investigations also receive media attention, which helps to raise public awareness about wildlife.

I’m proud to play a role in the Service’s mission of conserving wildlife for future generations. The most rewarding part of this job is knowing I can be a voice for animals who don’t have a chance to speak for themselves.

A woman drives a small motorboat along a dock with a man passenger.

Being a special agent involves work in many environments. Credit: USFWS

Q: Do you have a female role model or a woman that you admire or look up to?

A: Senior Special Agent Dede Manera. Dede entered the Office of Law Enforcement when very few women were in law enforcement, let alone wildlife law enforcement. Dede’s positive attitude, dedication, strength, and seemingly limitless energy inspire me. She’s a great role model, both professionally and personally.

I hope to seize opportunities and meet challenges posed to women in law enforcement today with even a fraction of Dede’s success and humility.

Q: How did you join the Service, and what do you see yourself doing 20 years from now? Will conservation still play a role in your life?

A: I was an Investigative Case Specialist at Valley Stream, providing support to the wildlife inspection  and special agent programs. I was hired as a special agent in 2011 and hope to still be one in 20 years.

Read about more women in conservation!

Of course conservation will always play a role in my life! I’m sure most employees would agree that a career with the Service is something people pursue because of a passion. Wildlife and conservation are integral to who I am, and I can’t imagine a life without them.

A woman shoots a rifle at some targets while a man stands behind her with his hand on her shoulder. Both wear ear muffs.

Special Agent McCabe trains at the firearms range. Credit: USFWS

Q: The theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination”; how might this theme play into your work?

A: When I was hired as an agent, my training officer told me that investigations are limited only by your imagination. Developing innovative ways to investigate wildlife crimes is a never-ending task. People who smuggle, traffic, and exploit wildlife are constantly coming up with new ways to do so, and law enforcement needs to stay one step ahead.

There are definitely challenges investigating crimes in traditionally male-dominated environments. However, there are also situations in which it’s easier for me to work in an undercover role. For all agents, it’s essential to devise imaginative ways to overcome investigative obstacles while working in continuously evolving conditions.

One Comment on “Giving a voice to wildlife through law enforcement

  1. Pingback: Women in conservation | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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