This week is National Police Week and on this occasion we’d like to shine a spotlight on the Northeast Region Refuge Officer of the Year Jay Perez. Officer Perez is a federal wildlife officer serving the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and other national wildlife refuges in Maine. He was recognized for his notable efforts to protect a witness who was being threatened for providing critical information to law enforcement in a 2017 case of unlawful trapping on refuge lands.
Today, we’ll hear from Officer Perez about how he became interested in a wildlife law enforcement career, how his work impacts wildlife and conservation, his most memorable achievements so far and why he loves his job.
What is your background? Did you always want to pursue a career in conservation?
I fostered a love for the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing, growing up in Seymour, Connecticut. After graduating high school, I played minor league baseball as a catcher for the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies. I went on to play professional baseball for three years before deciding I wanted to pursue a career in conservation law enforcement. I knew this career change would allow me to work in the outdoors and be closer to my true passions of hunting and fishing. I went on to attend Unity College in Maine where I received a degree in Conservation Law Enforcement and was lucky enough to work as a law enforcement intern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the former Student Career Experience Program.
In what ways does your work impact wildlife and conservation?
Federal wildlife officers enforce laws and rules that are designed to benefit wildlife, protect people, and conserve public land. Without enforcing laws that protect wildlife it would be difficult for other programs within the Service to do their jobs. I’ve learned it is essential to provide enforcement and education to help other programs within the agency function properly.
What do you consider the most rewarding part of your job as a federal wildlife officer?
The most rewarding part of being a federal wildlife officer is seeing people enjoying the outdoors and abiding by the rules and regulations set in place, without any law enforcement engagement. I enjoy my job because I get to see kids hunting or fishing and overall enjoying the outdoors. Many of the kids who visit our refuges look up to law enforcement officers and wish to become one or even a game warden someday. This is a truly humbling thing to witness for me.
Are there any moments you’re particularly proud of?
I am particularly proud of the recent conviction on a case that helped me earn the Officer of the Year Award. The reason I am so proud of this is because the outcome affected so many people. It gave closure and security to the witness who came forward to the authorities with evidence and was later threatened by the defendant in the case. The case helped build partnerships between many of the law enforcement agencies in Maine. It hopefully will stop the harassment that many of the residents in the area had endured for many years. Finally, it will protect the wildlife in the area from being illegally killed because the person convicted may not possess a firearm for the rest of his life.
Officer Perez has worked for the Service as a Federal Wildlife Officer for 12 years. We’re really lucky to have him, and so many others like him, working for the Service.
Click here for more information on federal law enforcement careers.