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Gear Up for Game Wardens Hits $3 Million Milestone July 2024

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program has reached a $3 million fundraising milestone, putting much-needed specialty equipment in the hands (and paws) of Texas Game Wardens across the state.

Through private donations, Gear Up for Game Wardens provides specialty equipment Texas Game Wardens need to maintain safety and ensure the highest level of service for the people of Texas. While the state provides the basic necessities for game wardens to do their jobs, there is still a critical need for additional specialized equipment.

I continue to be amazed at the generosity of our donors,” said Randy Risher, who is chair of the Gear Up for Game Wardens Leadership Council, and also serves as a trustee on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s board of directors. “From providing the funds to replace retiring K-9s to specialty equipment that literally saves lives like search and rescue drones, these generous donors exemplify the spirit of giving to Texas Game Wardens who stand ready to serve the people of Texas every single day."

Gear Up for Game Wardens launched in October 2017 after a group of dedicated individuals, including Risher, approached Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF)—the official nonprofit partner of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department—with an idea of how they might support the efforts of Texas Game Wardens. A leadership committee was formed, the official Gear Up for Game Wardens program was established, and a website, gearupforgamewardens.org, was launched to facilitate donations. Regional citizen committees have fueled the growing effort over the last five years, and fundraisers have been held across the state to raise the program’s profile and garner individual and corporate donations to support the effort.

Since the program launched in October 2017, more than 1,600 donations have been made, in amounts ranging from $5.00 to $100,000. A recent donation of nearly $20,000 provided GPS collars for the entire K-9 team, and snake boots for their human partners.


  Story #2: K-9’s Commissioned in Austin  

Every dog had its day at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission’s November 2022 meeting in Austin. On hand for the meeting were 15 members of the Texas Game Warden K-9 team, including nine dogs who officially retired, and another six who were inducted into service.

Each dog commissioned specializes in a certain aspect of tracking, including licensed skills like wildlife resource detection, search and rescue and evidence recovery. K-9 teams operate across the Lone Star State as a force multiplier to local law enforcement involved in high-risk responses. Coordinating efforts with a K-9 team results in reduced search time and increased evidence recovery.

“We have seven dogs in service right now with three vacancies that we hope to fill this spring,” said Christy Vales, who is the K-9 Captain Game Warden with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We are so grateful for the generous donations to Gear Up for Game Wardens that allow us to purchase new dogs and outfit them with specialty gear to quickly replace the ones that retire."


  Story #3: Support the Texas Game Warden K-9 Team  

TPWF helped get the inaugural Texas Game Warden K-9 team off the ground back in 2013, and thanks to generous donors, TPWF has helped keep the program strong for the past decade. In 2020, TPWF launched a dedicated effort to create a fund to replace the original members of the K-9 team, which were reaching retirement age, one by one.

“That original K-9 fundraising campaign quickly met its goal, but we realize the need for additional funding will be ongoing,” said Austin Taylor, who manages TPWF’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program. “Every dog who retires will need to be replaced, and then there is always the need to outfit the K-9 team with the latest and greatest search and rescue tools."

You can help ensure our K-9s are dressed to the nines with the equipment and training they need by supporting this vital program today.



  Story #4: Meet Texas Game Warden K-9 Lola  

Texas Game Warden Scott Kirkpatrick loves his job, and especially that he gets to go to work every day with his K-9 partner Lola.

When Kirkpatrick first met Lola, she was a 6-week-old puppy. At the time, Kirkpatrick didn’t know that she would end up being his partner. Kirkpatrick was fostering her as part of a puppy program started by several K-9 officers in Texas, Maine and Colorado.

“When I was fostering her, Lola went everywhere with me to get her used to every kind of environment, from a rural pasture to a crowded Home Depot,” he said. “She quickly demonstrated that she had the drive and other characteristics that would make her a good K-9."

As Kirkpatrick pondered the pending retirement of his K-9 partner, Ray, he realized his next partner was right underfoot.

“I have to admit I’d grown kind of attached to Lola, and I really liked the way her training was progressing,” he said. “I had started with her on some tracking exercises, and she just took that up like crazy. She just loves to work and her drive and energy are very high. So, I threw a pitch at my captain to see if I could keep her."

Thanks to a Gear Up for Game Wardens K-9 fund, dollars were readily available to make the purchase, and Lola became an official member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s K-9 team.

Lola’s search and rescue training paid off for a frightened and lost little boy and his frantic family in mid-November 2022. Kirkpatrick got a call from Cedar Hill State Park, where a boy had been missing overnight. Kirkpatrick and Lola headed to the wooded area where he had last been seen, and Lola got to work.

I saw her nose go down to the ground in a tracking behavior and she just took off,” said Kirkpatrick. “I just tried to keep up with her as best I could, running through the brush and ducking down to avoid branches along the way. And then l looked up and there she was, just sitting right over there beside him."

The little boy was safe and sound, and Lola had her first search and rescue mission under her collar.

“Of course, she got a treat after that successful rescue,” said Kirkpatrick.

Read More



  Story #5: 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. Become a Friend today and see the exclusive items you will receive so you can show your support of our Texas Game Wardens.

Become a Friend



  Story #6: Matagorda Slam Supports Gear Up for Game Wardens  

Mark your calendar for an upcoming fishing tournament that will benefit Texas Game Wardens! The Matagorda Slam is scheduled April 28-29 and will in held in Bay City.

Learn More



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