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Gear Up for Game Wardens Update April 2024

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program topped a $1 million fundraising milestone just two years after the program launched. Thanks to you, more than $1.2 million has been raised to provide the specialty gear our Texas Game Wardens need to be safer, more efficient, and more effective.

Since the program launched in October 2017, close to 900 donations have been made. As a result, specialty equipment and gear has been purchased and deployed across all eight game warden regions in Texas. Specialty gear provided by the program that is now being used by Texas Game Wardens includes search and rescue (SAR) drones, SAR inflatable boats, side scan sonar units, water rescue dry suits, night vision and thermal imaging units, ATVs, UTVs and specialized K-9 units.

"Texas Game Wardens play an important role in the lives of all Texans,” said Dan Flournoy, chair of the Gear Up for Game Wardens Leadership Council. “Along with their duty to protect the natural resources we all hold dear, they are also on the frontlines of natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. There have been other significant flooding events in Texas since Gear Up for Game Wardens launched, and there is no doubt in my mind that specialty gear provided through this program has saved lives. We are deeply grateful to the hundreds of Texans who have supported Gear Up for Game Wardens."

  Tactical Watches Keep Game Warden K-9s Safe  

Thanks to a generous donation in the waning days of 2019, every team in the Texas Game Warden K-9 Unit is now outfitted with high-tech Garmin tactical watches that will allow each handler to keep track of their K-9 partner while he is off the leash on a mission.

"It’s like a smartwatch that syncs directly to the Garmin tracking collars that each K-9 is outfitted with,” explained Captain Christy Vales, who leads the Texas Game Warden K-9 Unit. “When we are out in the field and do a search and rescue mission or are tracking a suspect, we know exactly where the dog is just by looking at the wrist unit, which ensures the safety of each of these K-9 officers. In addition, that tracking information could potentially be used in a court case."

Thanks to generous donations like this one, the Gear Up for Game Wardens program helps Texas Game Wardens do the best job possible for the people of Texas. You can help provide the specialty gear our Texas Game Wardens need.


  Meet Texas Game Warden K-9 Ruger  

Rescued from a meth house in Washington state, K-9 Ruger might have been destined for a life of crime. But those who found him could see his promise, and after a short stay at an animal shelter, Ruger’s life’s purpose became clear. He was taken in by the good folks at Pacific Coast K-9 in Washington state and began a rigorous training regimen that would transform him from an undisciplined puppy to a focused crime fighter.

About that same time, leaders in the Law Enforcement Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were researching what it would take to start a K-9 Unit in Texas. With support from Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the first team of five dogs and five game warden handlers began their training in 2013. The dogs were purchased from Pacific Coast K-9. Texas Game Warden Christy Vales was one of those first handlers, and she was paired up with Ruger, a yellow Labrador. Like his fellow K-9s, Ruger is a commissioned peace officer for the State of Texas, an official Texas Game Warden.

Christy and Ruger have been on hundreds of missions together, from catching poachers to rescuing lost children, locating firearms used during poaching cases and homicides, and responding to natural disasters.

"He’s nonstop every single day,” said Christy. “If we’re at home and I’m on the computer and my work phone rings, I have to go outside to have the conversation because he will just keep barking and circling, thinking we have a call."

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  Help us Replace Retiring K-9s  

Ruger is one of the original K-9 Texas Game Wardens and works hard every day doing the job he loves. Like his human partner, there will come a day when he needs to retire from his physically demanding career. For Ruger and the team of K-9s that started in 2013, that day is coming in the near future. Replacing each dog is an expensive prospect that can cost up to $6,000 per K-9, and another $4,000 for the specialty gear each dog needs. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is launching an effort to raise the dollars needed so that the dogs can be retired and replaced on a schedule that will allow for continuity within the K-9 Unit. Our fundraising goal is $70,000 to replace 7 K-9s over the next three years. So far, $10,000 has been raised and another $10,000 has been pledged. Please help us raise the necessary funds to keep our Texas Game Warden K-9 Unit strong.


  Community Events Raise Funds for Critical Equipment  

Gear Up for Game Wardens provides an opportunity for Texans to donate directly to the specialty equipment needs of game wardens in their own back yard. Fundraising efforts are grounded in the work of local citizen committees who help spread the word and coordinate fundraising events. Last fall, a San Antonio event raised enough funds to purchase a much-needed SAR thermal drone. Each drone costs more than $25,000. A second local event in southeast Texas also raised enough to fund a SAR thermal drone, the fourth to be funded through Gear Up for Game Wardens. Gear Up for Game Wardens is aiming to fund additional SAR thermal drones in 2020, which would place one in every game warden region in Texas. These thermal drones have increased the effectiveness of search and rescue missions and have allowed our Texas Game Wardens to rescue people in distress much more quickly than in the past. Help us fund these priority SAR thermal drones: 

DONATE HERE to fund a SAR thermal drone in Region 1 – West Texas

DONATE HERE to fund a SAR thermal drone in Region 6 – Texas Panhandle

  Uvalde County Gearing Up for Game Wardens  

The people of Uvalde County love their Texas Game Wardens. In October, the Fall on the Frio BBQ cook-off in Concan raised more than $14,000 and donated the proceeds to the Gear Up for Game Wardens program. The funds are being used to purchase cell phone boosters for local counties including Real, Edwards, Kinney, Uvalde, Zavala, Dimmit and Maverick counties.

In March 2019, another event in Concan also dedicated its proceeds to Gear Up for Game Wardens. The inaugural Women Who Wander event, which introduces women from all walks of life to outdoor pursuits, raised more than $34,000, which was donated to Gear Up. The second annual event is scheduled for March 27-29. Find out more about Women Who Wander and how you can participate in 2020.

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