One of the jobs of Outreach and Education is to help young people figure out if a career in a conservation field is right for them. We have often heard “I’d like to be an agent ‘cause I like to hunt and fish.” While I am very pleased that these activities are important to the young person, it does not mean a career as an agent is a good fit for them. Think about it for a second, what is an agent doing during the opening day of trout season? Opening day of turkey season? The hunting the agents are doing on opening day is often limited to hunting someone who, as Shannon County Agent Justin Emery puts it, “made a bad choice.”
Each year, Carter County Agent David Baldridge teams up with Agent Emery to help local young conservationists understand what is involved in their job and how to prepare for a job as an agent. Agent Emery and Baldridge both emphasize the importance of volunteer work to prepare. Riding along with an agent is a great way to get experience. Physical fitness, a college degree with law enforcement and biology is also a must.
Agents brought in some of the equipment they carry with them and use including some low-tech and high-tech items such as a first aid kits with bandages and a smart phone with an app to help them locate lost hikers and look up records. Both agents explained that you needed to have all of this equipment with you at all times and that no matter how carefully you plan your day, it can completely change with one phone call. One minute you are on a routine patrol on the river and the next you get a call from Operation Game Thief and you are on your way to check out a suspected poacher.
Staff at Twin Pines Conservation Education Center set up stations to let participants get a feel for some of the many tasks that agents are charged with to solve crimes. From fingerprinting, to making plaster casts of footprints and extracting DNA, young and old alike got a better idea of some of the techniques used and it isn’t really like what you see on TV. Think a rewarding career as a conservation agent might be for you? Check out the Related Information section below or visit with your county conservation agent.