Thursday, September 22, 2016

DNR Stories

I am blessed in that my children never stopped talking to me.  Not in that hateful middle school phase, not in the independent-don't-need-no-family-just-friends high school phase, and not even in the whole new world of college phase.  Sure, now that they are adults I don't see and talk to them on a daily basis, but when something is troubling them, or when something excites them, they will call and tell me about it.

This past summer, DD2 lived here at home while she worked her summer job at a nearby state park.  Working there made her an official DNR (Department of Natural Resources) employee.  The DNR spans the wide realm from being someone who sells day or annual passes to visitors at the state parks, to being a Conservation Officer.  There are tons of people working for the DNR who do all the tasks in between. Be it recreational, environmental, ecological, flora, fauna, nautical. . . if it's outdoors, or has to do with the outdoors (lots of lab work too) there is a DNR person doing it.

Hardly a week went by this summer when DD2 didn't share with me some interesting experience she had at work.  From counting goslings on the beach (and cleaning up goose poop), to chasing people off the beach after dark (when the beach area is closed), to finding a Luna moth in the campground shower while cleaning it, to trying to rid the dumpster area of marauding raccoons, it seemed like there was always something she wanted to tell me about.  Some of it was fun--like trying to bait and catch raccoons with her fellow summer workers, some of it was reaffirming--like the generosity of the campground hosts who gifted her several times a month with things like freshly made salsa or ice cream on a hot summer evening, some of it just made us both shake our heads--like the night a group of 10-13 year old kids staying at the campground with their parents snuck away from their campsite and tried to vandalize the DNR truck (DD2 enjoyed catching, and scaring the bejeezuz out of, them).

Typically DD2 worked the 'night' shift, going in at 4:00 in the afternoon and getting off work at 12:30 a.m.  She worked mainly in the campground not just doing office work (like selling camping permits and firewood), but also maintenance (bathroom and shower cleaning), as well as walking the campground loops several times a night dealing with noise complaints and other issues.  Also included in her tasks were to check the local boat access sites that 'belonged to' her state park.

Those boat access sites were usually deserted after dark, but not always.  One night a group of elderly people (apparently there were more than a few who were in their 70's and even 80's) thought it would be fun to go skinny dipping at one of the access sites.  Which probably wouldn't have been a big deal, and they probably wouldn't have gotten caught had one of them not nearly drowned.  The stress from the near drowning brought on a heart attack, and one of the skinny dippers never made it home.  So, there was that interesting story the next day (after wondering why, at 1:30 a.m. DD2 hadn't come home from work yet).

Another boat access site check in mid-summer yielded a drug bust that left DD2 shaking her head at the stupidity of some people.  She had been making the nightly rounds with the park ranger on duty and had been the one to notice a vehicle parked in one of the access sites.  Three hours later, she had quite a story to tell of how she had assisted in detaining two people until more rangers could arrive (the vehicle's occupants were both arrested), how much 'evidence' was collected, and how her name had been credited on the paperwork reporting the incident.  As a mom, I'm really glad I didn't know in advance how much of an issue drugs (marijuana, mostly) are in the area and that my 18 year old daughter's job as a seasonal temporary worker at the state park would regularly involve detecting campers with pot.  I'd thought it would be mostly boring tasks like cleaning pit toilets, restocking toilet paper, raking the beach area, cleaning out fire pits, and selling park passes and campsite permits.  But several times a week she came home with stories of dealing with campers in the possession of pot (which is illegal to possess in the state parks, medical marijuana card or not).

I swear, the experiences she had this summer would make an interesting book.

Even though she's back at college, those DNR experiences haven't come to an end.  She was able to get a transfer from the state park she worked at all summer to the one closest her college, so she's still on the job, although now it's weekend days instead of five nights a week.  Thankfully, drugs seem to be virtually nonexistent at her new place of employment.  I mean, DD2 is a sturdy girl and can be imposing (she's not petite, being 5' 10" tall and built like a farmhand) but as a Mom it still worries me what she might run into.

Her latest adventures she relays to me are of the animal, not illegal substance, kind.  Apparently her new state park is also a DNR hunting check station.  And September is black bear hunting season there.

Almost two weeks ago I got a very excited phone call from her on her way home from work, which she started by saying "Guess what happened at work today?  I have blood all over my hands!"  Realizing how that could be taken the wrong way, (I guess she remembered the midnight phone call I'd gotten from her back in June that started with "Hey Mom, do you want a freshly killed buck?  Should I gut it and bring it home?"  that in my groggy state of being awoken from a sound sleep made me panic that she'd hit the deer on her way home from work, rather than that one had been hit on the road leading to the state park and she recognized the opportunity for good fresh venison) she quickly assured me that it wasn't her blood.  In fact, it wasn't human blood at all, but bear blood.

The ranger on duty with her that day had had her help when hunters brought their bears to the check station.  Being as she is a Wildlife Ecology major, he thought that she might find it interesting to see what sorts of things are done to officially record a harvested game animal with the DNR.  Not only did he have her observe and fill out the paperwork, but on the second bear, he had her do the actual check and tagging of the bear, which includes pulling a premolar in order to age the animal.  Which is how she got bear blood all over her hands.

Last weekend she got to check in another bear, the biggest one--at (I believe she said) 260 pounds dressed weight--she's seen yet.  It's really cool to listen to her recall what she's seen and done.  From the elderly "lady as old as Grandma (who is 72) and just as little" to the "15 year old girl who shot her first bear!  Imagine, your first bear; at home everyone gets excited about shooting their first deer!", she is adding even more stories to that potential book.  Not to mention all great experiences and skills to put on her resume.

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