Aaron Berscheid is a district wildlife officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Aaron covers the “wild” side of Northeast El Paso County, including Black Forest, Falcon, Peyton and Calhan. He also covers some of Elbert County, north of U.S. Highway 24 and south of State Highway 86, including the towns of Elbert, Kiowa, Ramah, Simla, Matheson and a small portion of the Limon area.
Training wildlife officers
By Aaron Berscheid
District Wildlife Manager, CPW
If you saw me making my rounds recently, perhaps you noticed another officer riding along with me in my CPW patrol truck.
What you saw was one of my most important patrols all year. I was helping CPW train one of the next generations of CPW wildlife officers.
This time each year, veteran officers like me are asked to show new wildlife officers and park rangers the ropes. That doesn’t mean pointing out my favorite place to grab a breakfast burrito or meatball sub (although I do have some go-to joints in the Falcon and Black Forest areas).
Training new officers and rangers ranks among the most critical missions I perform every year because what we do at CPW is unlike any other law enforcement/wildlife job in the country. Making sure our new officers and rangers know what to expect and how to treat the public is something we can’t risk getting wrong.
In my experience, I’ve found CPW officers and rangers enjoy a level of public support that is envied by our colleagues in other states. That’s due, I believe, to our special approach to interacting with the public. And that all comes back to training.
For example, we have 960 species of wildlife in Colorado and 43 state parks spread across 23 million acres of land. On any given day, a member of the public is liable to approach me with questions about any or all of them.
It’s flattering to be perceived as someone they can approach and ask questions. And they respect our uniform to the point they know we can answer them or direct them to someone who can satisfy their questions.
I love it that strangers want to talk to us about their latest camping trip or the fish they caught at Lake Pueblo or want advice for their upcoming hunting trip.
It’s incredibly flattering.
And these special demands make it more difficult to hire and train new officers and rangers.
Sure, we are all fully trained, P.O.S.T-certified law enforcement officers. P.O.S.T is an acronym for Peace Officer’s Standards and Training. But CPW officers and rangers are much more. We all hold college degrees with biology majors who join our terrestrial and aquatic biologists in the field doing wildlife surveys. And we are educators, as well, speaking to public meetings and in newspapers, like I do each month in The New Falcon Herald, inviting questions and trying to raise public awareness about some important wildlife issue.
And it sets us apart from our respected brethren performing incredibly difficult and demanding jobs for city police departments, county sheriff’s offices, state patrol and other law enforcement agencies.
So, if you see me with a colleague, be sure to say “hi” and get acquainted. Our trainees need to know what to expect and to learn, as I have, how many great people are out there.
In the coming months, I’ll share more stories as I write about wildlife issues in our community. Got a question, problem, or column idea? Please email me at email@example.com or call me at 719-227-5231.
I might even answer your question in a future installment of “Wildlife Matters.”