Camp gives youths a glimpse of life as a conservation officer

An archery skills session was part of Saturday's camp itinerary. (Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS)

Law enforcement professionals from across the region spent the day Saturday, April 28 with 48 youths looking to learn more about what it takes to become a conservation officer.

The group met at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Zimmerman, Minn., learning about everything from forensic science to bird identification.

Known as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service‘s Youth Game Warden Camp, this day-long experience first began in 2014 at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Since then, camp organizer and federal wildlife officer Kelly Modla have worked to connect with communities all over Alaska and beyond. The camp aims to provide youth with an opportunity to connect their love of the outdoors and conservation with meaningful careers. The camp raises awareness for the need to respect wildlife and the habitats that they call home.

Assistant District Manager Mead Klavetter shares information about skins and skulls Saturday at the camp. (Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS)

“Camps like this are important because they give the next generation insight into why it’s important to protect natural resources and it helps them understand how they can help protect those without a voice, the wildlife,” said Regional Law Enforcement Chief Chris Jussila.

Modla has varied the grade and age range for groups over the last few years to get the mix of activities right. In 2014, it was presented to fourth- and fifth-graders and then expanded to include youth in sixth grade in 2015. Last year’s camp focused on seventh- through ninth-graders and even had few 10th-graders in the mix.

“The sky’s the limit on what kinds of fun activities you can share with these kids. They come with lots of enthusiasm and questions and just tear it up,” said Modla.

The Sherburne camp featured hands-on sessions in forensics, boating safety, GPS, survival skills, and bird identification. The day even included a canine officer demonstration with “Duke.”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources made the Turn In Poachers, Inc. (TIP) educational trailer available for the event. This gave participants a chance to see what strong wildlife law enforcement looks like by touring the trailer, which features confiscated taxidermy from an important poaching case that took place at the refuge.

Learn more about Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/sherburne/.

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