Tag Archives: refuge law enforcement

My life after the internship: Gabriel Harper

This year, we checked in with some of our past interns to find out what came next after their internship ended. Did they stay with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or land another sweet job? We hope they put those skills to good use! Look out for these stories to find out about their life after the internship. Today, meet Gabriel Harper, a superstar federal wildlife officer. Below, find out where he started with us and how he got where he is now.

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Gabriel Harper began his career with the Service through the Conservation Internship Program, now the Career Discovery Internship Program, a partnership between the Service and The Student Conservation Association to help prepare the next generation of wildlife professionals and managers.

The Student Conservation Association allowed for my first true glimpse into the world of conservation. I began my internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in May 2009, at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach. With minimal prior knowledge of the agency, I approached this venture with an open mind and eager attitude. It was the summer of many “firsts” for me! Back Bay afforded me my first time camping, fishing, kayaking, and birding, while also having the duties of giving interpretive speeches and leading guided tours throughout the refuge.

From what was initially intended to be a 12-week internship, with the support from my supervisors, I was converted to a federal career intern position as a park ranger with the Service within a year of my arrival. Shortly thereafter, I transitioned to permanent employee status, where I led guided tours for schools and other large groups, providing information on wildlife and habitat management. Some of my other job duties included assisting the biology staff members with the threatened sea turtle protection program, wildlife surveys, and invasive species control. I developed a passion for outreach, and it led me to look for new innovative ways to bring minorities to experience all the opportunities the great outdoors have to offer.

NCTC broadcast

Gabriel during a broadcast at the National Conservation Training Center about illegal wildlife trade.

In 2011, my passion for the environment led me to pursue a career in law enforcement. After close to a year in training, I was sworn in as a federal wildlife officer with the Service. This unique career field equipped me with the tools and skills necessary to confront illegal hunting, trapping, and harvesting of wildlife and plants. I found that I wasn’t too far from my foundation. A typical day could consist of me teaching youth how to fish, conduct a deer poaching investigation, meet with state conservation officers to discuss an upcoming deer decoy operation, stop and investigate a DUI (driving under the influence) on a refuge, or even assist in natural disaster relief efforts anywhere in the US.

Now in my fourth year with the Service, I work at Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. I continue to manifest fervent hunger that propelled me in the past days when I was seeking employment. There is still so much I feel needs to be done to bring awareness about our mission. On an individual level, I have made myself available to different programs throughout the agency such as the Service Honor Guard, the special operations response team, and the diversity change agents. My commitment to protect our natural resources is rejuvenated every time I step foot on my refuge.

Full HG Team John TAYLOR funeral

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Honor Guard.

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard to provide safe boating opportunities

We continue celebrating National Fishing and Boating Week, this time with a post about boating.on_board

Christopher Husgen, federal wildlife officer at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, tells how he is partnering with the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure safe boating.

I have worked the marshes at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge for over 17 years, but it is my love for hunting waterfowl and fishing that has really taught me to navigate the marsh. While I have been hunting for about ten years now, it wasn’t until I came to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that I even learned to hunt. An old-timer who hunts on the refuge gave me a few clues and I’ve learned a lot on my own. Now I’m kind of the go-to guy for waterfowl hunting at the refuge.

I was able to put that knowledge and experience to good use recently, when I took several boat operators from the U.S. Coast Guard, Merrimack River Station, out on the refuge marsh to learn their way around.

chrishusgen with USCG

Christopher Husgen (third from left), refuge law enforcement officer at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, partnered with U.S. Coast Guard boat operators to make sure they could navigate the refuge marsh in case of an emergency.

The Coast Guard boat operators do not often patrol the waters of the refuge marshes, as they are not familiar with them, and a mishap of bumping the bottom can hinder their future boat operation opportunities.

I approached the Coast Guard and provided an orientation several years ago, and this past spring, I conducted two more training sessions. I took them out in a refuge boat, and toured the backwaters, pointing out hazards, and shallow spots. We’ll return to the marsh in their boat and I’ll work with them to plot the critical hazards on their electronics, helping them to become familiar with the refuge marshes should they ever need to navigate them.

Even though we have different jurisdiction, we have worked together during a number of incidents, ranging from rescuing kayakers caught in treacherous waters to catching poachers. Over the years there have been many times we have called the Coast Guard to come to the aid of a boater off shore. They have also called us to look on the beaches and marshes for missing or stranded boaters or paddlers. On the most recent meeting, we worked together to provide training for three of their new boat operators to learn to tow a boat. I hope to not need a tow any time soon, but it’s good to know they will be able to do it properly.

I really hope to strengthen the communication and cooperation between our agencies to better serve the boating public. And should we ever need assistance on the water, I know we have a partner in the U.S. Coast Guard.

USCG

The Service and the U.S. Coast Guard are working together to provide safe experiences for the boating public.