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Gear Up for Game Wardens Update April 2024

Texans support their game wardens, and it shows. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s (TPWF) Gear Up for Game Wardens program has raised more than $1.7 million since the program launched in October 2017. In 2020 alone, $569,996 was raised. Thanks to you, Texas Game Wardens are better equipped to meet their mission in the 254 counties in which they serve.

Donations have been made from all corners of the state, and 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, modified airboat trailers, night vision, thermal imaging units, ATVs, UTVs and specialized K-9 units.

  New K-9s on Duty  

Thanks to support from dog-loving Texans, the Texas Game Warden K-9 Team continues to thrive. Members of the original K-9 Team, which was formed in 2013, have begun retiring from their physically demanding careers. Texas Game Warden K-9s perform hundreds of missions during their service to Texas, from catching poachers to rescuing lost children, locating firearms used during poaching cases and homicides, and responding to natural disasters.

Replacing each dog is an investment that can cost up to $6,000 per K-9, and another $4,000 for the specialty gear required for each dog. TPWF has launched 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. The photo above features one of the newer K-9s on the team purchased from this fund. Jake, and his human partner, John Thorne are stationed near Fairfield in East Texas, but will be deployed all over the state.

The fundraising goal is $74,000 to replace 7 K-9s over the next three years, and so far, more than $64,000 has been raised.

We’re only $10,000 away from our fundraising goal, and every donation helps.


  Airboat Trailers and UTVs Help Coastal Game Wardens  

With support from generous donations through the Gear Up for Game Wardens program, Texas Game Wardens near Corpus Christi now have access to some critically needed specialty equipment that will allow them to perform their duties more efficiently and effectively.

The Texas Brush Country Safari Club International Chapter and the Saltwater-Fisheries Enhancement Association provided generous funding to purchase a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) for Corpus Christi area game wardens. ExxonMobil funded the replacement of two needed airboat trailers that were out of commission due to aging and rust. This new equipment is allowing Texas Game Wardens to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

"The new airboat trailers are uniquely suited to the work of Texas Game Wardens,” explained Texas Game Warden Capt. Ben Baker, who supervises a district along the Texas Gulf Coast. “It has zero-degree axles, which means it can be unloaded just about anywhere and is a lot easier on the equipment and the operators. The UTV allows us to patrol areas that we haven’t been able to get to before. It’s clearly marked as a law enforcement vehicle, which deters illegal activity, and also encourages folks to call us if they see something unlawful."

You can help support Texas Game Wardens by helping to provide the specialty equipment they need.


  Meet Texas Game Warden Kyle Hendley  

As he was growing up in the small coastal town of Refugio, Texas, Kyle Hendley wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he grew up. He loved hunting, fishing and the outdoors, and in high school he got to know a Texas Game Warden. 

I had some other career ideas in mind, but as I got to know more about what game wardens were and what they do, it seemed like that was something I’d want to spend the rest of my life doing,” said Hendley.

It took Hendley two tries to get accepted into the highly competitive Texas Game Warden Academy, and after a grueling seven-month training regime, he become a Texas Game Warden. His first duty station in Corpus Christi took him right back to the Texas coastal waters he loves.

As a Texas Game Warden, Kyle works with all manner of gear and equipment, some of which has been provided through TPWF’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program. Recently, his district received two new pieces of equipment through Gear Up for Game Wardens, including a UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) and airboat trailers specifically modified for a coastal environment.

"It’s nice knowing you have that support, and that it’s coming from all over Texas," said Hendley.

After several years on the job, Kyle’s passion for his work has not dimmed.

"I absolutely love my job," said Hendley with a laugh. "I just had four days off and I was chomping at the bit to get back out there, because I love it so much. I feel very fortunate that my boyhood dream of becoming a Texas Game Warden has come true."

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  Texas Game Wardens (and their decoys) are watching you  

Texas Game Wardens know that poachers use every trick in the book to skirt game and fish laws and take wildlife out of season. That’s why game wardens have a few tricks of their own up their sleeves. Recently, a Texas Game Warden caught a poacher red-handed with a wildlife decoy funded through the Gear Up for Game Wardens program.

"It was just the second time I took it out, and within minutes of it going up we heard a shot," said the Texas Game Warden who set up a decoy in an area known for road hunting. The game warden asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

A chase ensued, and back-up law enforcement officers helped corral the suspect. A vehicle search revealed a just-fired rifle, and back strap from a deer. Further investigation resulted in a confession of shooting deer off the road, cutting out the backstrap and leaving the rest of the deer on the side of the road. It also resulted in an admission that he’d been doing it for years. The game warden ended up filing eight charges, including shooting from the road, waste of game, and several other felonies. The poacher also faces civil restitution charges.

"These decoys are just another tool in our basket to catch the bad guys," said the game warden. "The suspect may have been getting away with it for years, but now he’s facing more than $5,000 in fines. He’ll likely think about that before trying this again."

  East Texas Powersports is Gearing up for Game Wardens!  

East Texas Powersports in Lufkin is proud to support Texas Game Wardens. That’s why they championed a proposal to the Can-Am for a Cause Texas Community Fund to provide a UTV for game wardens working in East Texas. In late December, we learned that Texas Game Wardens were one of five recipients who will receive a new UTV later this year.

The Can-Am Defender Pro will allow game wardens to conduct their law enforcement duties of fish, game, and water safety enforcement, emergency response, and search and rescue in Angelina County, Houston County, Polk County, Trinity County and Tyler County. This donation will enhance game wardens’ ability to accomplish their missions in an efficient and safer manner, benefitting both game wardens and the citizens of Texas.

KUDOS to East Texas Powersports and Can-Am for a Cause!

  Become a Friend of Texas Game Wardens Today!  

Sustaining the Gear Up for Game Wardens program ensures TPWF can manage the program and purchase the specialty equipment Texas Game Wardens need. Becoming a Friend of Texas Game Wardens helps us continue our work to enhance the capabilities of the best-trained corps of conservation officers in the nation. And with your $100 donation, you will receive a special decal so you can show your support of Texas Game Wardens.

Become a Friend



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