Agent of Change
of the modern technological items at his disposal with equal fervor, but said that change and flexibility have always been important ingredients of a conservation agent’s job. “You have to adjust to the fact that you’re going to have to be adjustable,” he said.
The art of enforcement
Of course, some skills can’t be taught or mechanized through technology. It’s some of these inherent talents that have made Engelbrecht an effective enforcer of fish and wildlife regulations for five decades.
“Carl is one of the best agents we have when it comes to interviewing people,” said Department of Conservation Protection Division Chief Dennis Steward. “There’s just something about Carl that makes you want to tell him what happened. I would say the straight-forward, respectful manner in which he treats people has a lot to do with it.”
Watson, who has discussed many conservation-related legal matters with Engelbrecht during his 15 years as Newton County’s prosecuting attorney, echoed Steward’s sentiments.
“I’ve had Carl come into my office so many times and say, ‘I caught this fellow, we had a long talk, and this is what needs to be done,’” Watson said. “He is wise enough to know that there’s no reason to be malicious or hateful to the people he catches because those are the people he also serves.”
Engelbrecht says the main component of his interviewing/interrogation technique is courtesy.“I’ve made a lot of friends through my arrests,” he said. “Why? Oh, I don’t know—I guess they knew they were in the wrong, they got caught, and they respected the way they were treated.”
Resource and role model
Working a half-century in the same area has certainly given Engelbrecht knowledge of the land and the people living on it that has proven to be invaluable in the enforcement of the state’s fish and wildlife regulations.
According to Abramovitz, “Carl knows every road and dog trail in the county.”
“Carl has seen everything, knows virtually everyone in his district, and is keenly aware of the unique characteristics of the land and the wildlife it supports,” Steward said. “He has dealt with several generations of resource users in Newton County. His fair, respectful treatment of people— including those he caught breaking the rules—no doubt has played a major role in the great support the Missouri Department of Conservation enjoys from the people of Newton County.”
Five decades of enforcing wildlife regulations has given Engelbrecht plenty of stories. They range from the comical (catching anglers who had stuffed illegal trout into their overalls), to the perilous (working with Abramovitz to rescue several young adults stranded on an island in a flood-swollen Shoal Creek), to the complex (working with wildlife officials from the U.S. and other countries in an international enforcement operation to stop illegal trafficking of peregrine falcons in Asia and the United States). Engelbrecht said his duties have been diverse and frequently labor-intensive, but always enjoyable.
“I think the activities are what have kept me at this job,” he said. “I never wanted to do anything else. I enjoy what I do, and I enjoy making contacts with people. I don’t think I need to retire.”
“When Carl does decide to retire, there’ll be no replacing him,” Watson said. “Someone might come in and take that spot, but you’re not going to replace him. The Missouri Department of Conservation, my office and the general public would all be better off if there were a lot more men like Carl Engelbrecht.”