California Fish and Game wardens in the spotlight on 'Wild Justice,' premiering Sunday on National Geographic Channel
California Department of Fish and Game wardens certainly have an interesting work schedule. Dealing with illegal hunters, methamphetamine users, illegal pot growers and probation violators, it seems no two days are alike.
These 240 law enforcement men and women patrol wide swaths of the state's 159,000 square miles of land, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 1,100 miles of coastline, often alone and in rural areas where backup can be hours away. And often, many of the people they come in contact with are armed.
The real-life bravery of California game wardens is brought to light in the new National Geographic Channel series "Wild Justice," premiering Sunday at 9 p.m. with two hourlong episodes before moving to its regular night and time, Wednesdays at 10 beginning Dec. 1.
The 11-episode series follows the lives of California’s Fish and Game wardens, on call 24/7, as they defend against human threats to the environment, endangered wildlife and the cultivation of illegal drugs. On foot or horseback, by car or off-road vehicle, by plane or by boat, this small group of law enforcement officers covers a large territory in pursuit of poachers, polluters and illegal marijuana growers, while still making sure hunters and anglers follow the rules.
Though the show appears to focus on the "dirty" side of the job, it's not all trouble -- wardens also promote and coordinate hunter education programs and represent the DFG at schools and meetings of hunting and fishing clubs and other special interest groups.
"One thing about this job is that everything changes," DFG Warden Brian Boyd comments in one episode. "It's one reason why I like it and the reason some people don't like it, cause you can't set your clock to it."
"Wild Justice" episode descriptions through mid-December are after the jump (the rest of the descriptions are still pending):
Warden Brian Boyd and his trainee John Fraley take an unusual approach to catching hunters suspected of trafficking in bear gallbladders. Using real bear paws to mask his tracks and a scent drag to imitate bear presence in the area, Boyd hopes to lure the hunters into a trap that will enable him to catch them red-handed. Meanwhile, Wardens Jerry Karnow and John Nores use aerial recon to track down what they believe is a thrill-killing poacher. Later, San Francisco Warden William O'Brien organizes a squad to inspect for illegal species sold in Chinatown. The group finds a myriad of oddities, several suspicious species for sale and a suspect who eludes questioning.
The Santa Clara Marijuana Eradication Team finds a massive grow site in the mountains. Wardens in the Oroville Wildlife Area investigating an amorous couple hear gunshots and find some partying kids who are breaking the law. Along the Feather River, wardens track down a carload of men they suspect of working in a marijuana grow site and in Tehama County's mountains, wardens find over 900 marijuana plants.
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 10 p.m.: "Outgunned"
A team of wardens takes to the skies to coordinate an air-to-ground assault on nocturnal poachers, while another team tracks down a serial poacher who kills fawns. A special operations unit spends Halloween capturing a deer poacher they've been surveilling for weeks, and wardens Boyd and Karnow meticulously track down a meth addict who uses a bow and arrow to endanger more than one species.
Wednesday, Dec. 8, 10 p.m.: "Deer Meat for Meth"
After getting a tipoff, John Nores and the Marijuana Eradication Team scout a grow site. A few hundred miles north, Mike Beals patrols the Oroville Wildlife Area, a county park known for rampant drug activities. He encounters drugs, trespassers and a stolen vehicle. Meanwhile, two squads race to capture dangerous hunters feeding their methamphetamine addictions by poaching deer.
Wednesday, Dec. 15, 10 p.m.: "Felony Friday"
With hundreds of square miles to patrol in one of the largest states in the country, wardens take to Monterey Bay for the opening of sport rockfish season and track down a poacher deep in Feather Falls. A squad investigates a sea lion that's been shot in the face, while other wardens patrol a river in the Oroville Wildlife Area and investigate suspected poaching in the Mendocino National Forest.
-- Kelly Burgess
Photos: California Department of Fish and Game wardens will be the focus of the upcoming series "Wild Justice," premiering Sunday on the National Geographic Channel. Credit: Original Productions