Growing up in the tiny farm town of Orland at the north end of California’s Central Valley, a pheasant sighting was a daily occurrence for me. These beautiful Asian transplants were so plentiful, and pheasant hunting was so popular, the annual season opener was practically a national holiday.
People often ask me what happened to all the pheasants. As always, the destruction of habitat is a major factor: Most of the grass-filled ditches where pheasants once nested have been eliminated. Some farming practices have resulted in nests and young birds being crushed under heavy machinery. Perhaps the most damaging factor is the explosive increase in the number of feral cats; it’s estimated that these natural predators kill hundreds of millions of song birds and game birds every year. People who allow their family pets to multiply unchecked or become established in the wild do more harm to wild bird populations than all of the poachers combined.
Most game wardens or wildlife officers will tell you that the odds of going out on any given day and catching someone in the act of taking a deer out of season are pretty remote. With thousands of square miles to patrol, it’s like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.
Most significant fish or wildlife cases begin with information received from someone. That someone could be another hunter or fisherman who actually witnessed the violation. It could be a neighbor who saw something illegal or suspicious happening next door. Maybe the violator was overheard bragging about his illegal activity at work or in a bar.
It is up to the willdife officer to investigate the information he receives and corroborate it with additional evidence or related facts. When the “totallity of circumstances” would lead a reasonable person to believe that a person or persons are unlawfully in possession of some form of fish or wildlife, it may be time for the game warden’s best friend, a search warrant.
We sold out in two hours at the Redding Costco book signing, on Friday. Saturday, we sold out again at the Whole Earth Watershed Festival.
The young man on my right is Gil Berg, a well-known retired California Fish and Game warden from the 1950s and 1960s era. Gil worked all over the state, including Gridley, Santa Barbara and Lake Tahoe. What a pleasure to have him come by!
Publishers Weekly published an excellent review of Badges, Bears, and Eagles yesterday:
“This engrossing memoir by debut author Callan lets readers in on highlights of his 30-year career as a California wildlife officer. With a healthy dose of bravado, he always gets his perps, though he credits his fellow officers, like long-time partner Dave Szody, and the roles they’ve played in cases brought against poachers and other law-breakers. He recalls stories from back into the 1970′s, his memory matched by a knack for pacing and recognition of how much information readers need to understand the dynamics of the cases. From beer-swilling poacher flunkies to “entrepreneurs” dealing in black bear gall bladder for use in Chinese medicine, Callan and his partner sent a lot of wild characters to jail. The vignettes are jaw-dropping, funny, tragic, enraging, exciting, and hopeful—sometimes all at once. An avid outdoorsman with respect for the land and its inhabitants, Callan shares some of the ecological and social history of each California region he’s worked; while those without knowledge of hunting will soon learn the intricacies of California’s byzantine regulations. Never wavering from his ideals, Callan demonstrates an enviable love of his life’s work and has plenty of adventure stories to share.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/15/2013
Chapter 23, “Bears and Bad Guys,” describes how California black bears were unlawfully killed for their paws, as well as their gall bladders. These were seized from an outlaw’s freezer during the arrest phase of our (1995-1997) undercover investigation.
We had a fantastic book signing yesterday at Redding’s Sun Oaks Tennis and Fitness. Thanks so much to Julie, Lisa, and the wonderful Sun Oaks staff who hosted our event. Kathy and I were amazed at the number of people who showed up, some to buy books and others to have their already-purchased copies signed. We sold out in a little over two hours and had a great time. Thanks so much to everyone who came.
Our next public book signing is scheduled for April 26th, at the Redding Costco (10:00 AM to 4:00 PM). Hope to see you there! For those of you from out of the area, you can order Badges, Bears, and Eagles online from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Smashwords and Walmart. You can also have your local bookstore order a copy for you.
Last weekend, Kathy and I drove over to California’s beautiful North Coast. We were biking through the pasturelands, northwest of Eureka, when we began seeing geese—thousands of them. It seemed that every pasture hosted a healthy flock of feeding little cacklers. “Wait a minute,” I said. “Those aren’t cacklers, they’re Aleutian geese.” Every bird displayed the characteristic white ring at the base of its neck.
Once teetering on the brink of extinction, Aleutian goose numbers reached an estimated 114,000 birds in 2008—a true testament to the Endangered Species Act and the highly successful Pacific Flyway Aleutian Goose Management Plan.
Tom Stienstra, columnist and outdoor writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, has writen about Badges, Bears, and Eagles in today’s (3/11/13) issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. He refers to Chapter 7, “Metro Wardens,” where I describe some of the many big cat and exotic animal incidents that occurred in Southern California during the 1970s and early 1980s. At that time, there were believed to be as many captive African lions in the LA Basin as there were wild lions in Africa. Read the story at SFGate.
I am very happy to say that our first book signing event, at the Shasta County Sports Show, was a success. Thanks to the wonderful article in Saturday’s Redding Record Searchlight and all of the nice people who came by, we sold out in three hours. For those readers who have ordered through Amazon, the word I’m getting is three weeks to delivery. Barnes and Noble and Amazon are able to provide ebooks right away.
If you think California Fish and Wildlife wardens do nothing but write fishing tickets, read Badges, Bears, and Eagles. You may be surprised!