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The Game Trail

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Who you gonna call? Sheriff's dispatch, please



For folks recently calling my state phone number, and Officer Hislop’s number in Sagle, you would have received a message stating the line has been disconnected. It’s not an error, they have been disconnected. Please bear with me and I’ll explain.

The other day I got home from work and my state phone line was ringing. I answered the phone as my wife begrudgingly looked at me while she was plating up dinner. My 2-year-old daughter was jumping up and down yelling,” Daddy’s Home! Daddy’s Home!” The caller on the line was a woman that proceeded to give me an ear full about what an irresponsible officer I am and how in the world could no one return a call from her today regarding an aggressive moose in her yard. She was clearly upset, so I asked her who she called. She called the number in the phonebook for an Idaho Fish & Game Conservation Officer in Sandpoint/Clark Fork, the number that rings at my house. I apologized for missing her call and explained that I was in the field working all day while the phone at my house was taking her messages. There was a short pause and she blurted, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard of! You have phones that ring at your house while you’re out working?” Well, she was spot-on; it is a stupid set-up, especially with today’s communication technology such as cells phones, smart phones, and pagers.

While we’ve been mulling the idea of getting rid of our home lines in the past, that lady was the catalyst in changing how we do business. The officers in Region 1 have state landline phones to their house, the only region in the state to do so. These numbers are listed in the white pages of the phone book by our patrol districts, or closest town. While every officer in the Region prides themselves on public service and having an open door policy, there has to be some limitations to the amount of time an officer sits on his phone at home returning calls to the public. We have 40 hours a week to get the work done that sportsmen are paying us with their hard earned dollars to accomplish. I know I’ve stated in this column before that the Idaho Fish & Game enforcement team operates on license dollars only, but it’s worth repeating. The non-hunting public is not supporting us through the general tax fund, yet has the largest demand on our call base.

There are days when I come home from a long patrol in the field and there are over 30 messages on my answering machine, and about 15 percent are enforcement related calls. Unfortunately I did not receive any of those calls while I was out working where I could have appropriately responded, as the case with the above mentioned woman. Additionally, I then call back 20-plus people about things that are not related to Fish & Game business. For instance, I receive calls about Christmas tree permits, boating violations, campground reservations, forest maps, etc.  

So what’s the big deal? I’m not complaining about having to handle the calls, I’m complaining about the efficiency of my job. I need to be in the field catching violators, educating youth, attending sportsman’s meetings, managing wildlife, and training to be a better wildlife officer... NOT sitting on the phone. We have begun to streamline our communications with the public, the sheriff’s office, and our regional office in Coeur d’Alene by canceling the phones lines to our homes. With the state of our budgets these days, the money savings from cancelling the phone lines to our homes is an added bonus.  

How does the public get a hold of a game warden now? For emergencies, or to report violations, please call the Sheriff’s office dispatch. Here’s where it becomes more streamlined. Instead of leaving a message on my answering machine, you’re talking to a live person in the business of dispatching calls. The dispatcher will try to reach me on the radio or cell phone where I will take the call in the field and have the opportunity to respond in a timely fashion.

The take home message is when you see a violation or want to report a wildlife emergency please call the County dispatch center just like you would when you need other law enforcement help. You can also call The Citizen’s Against Poaching Hotline at 800-632-5999. Both dispatch centers will immediately contact the local officer with the violation information. As always, you can remain anonymous when calling either dispatch center, but we encourage you to leave a call back number so officers can get additional information. For general information requests you can contact the Regional Fish & Game Office in Coeur d’Alene at 208-769-1414 during normal business hours.

It’s that time of year to start thinking about getting that youngster, or adult new to hunting, enrolled in a hunter education class. Classes are starting to fill up so please sign up for the next available class. There are a couple of options; you can take the instructor led courses locally or participate in an on-line class, followed by a field test day with an existing local class. I really recommend taking the instructor lead class as there is more information covered in a more thorough fashion. To sign up please go to the Idaho Fish & Game website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/ . Follow the links to the hunter education course sign-up. Pick a location nearest to you and pay right on-line with a credit card!  I hope to see you in the next class!

Leave No Child Inside

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Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

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