UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – A love for the nature and outdoors and protecting it, that’s what Cpl. Brett DeLonge and Conservation Officer Jennifer Hanson do day in and day out.
“This job has been a dream of mine since I was eight years old,” said DeLonge. “I’m passionate for the outdoors. I hunt and fish. I spend a lot of time recreating, and I enjoy law enforcement. I enjoy working with people and kind of sharing an opportunity to get outside so everyone can enjoy the outdoors safely.”
“A conservation officer came and spoke to one of my classes when I was attending Northern Michigan University,” said Hanson. “That was my first interaction with a conservation officer and it really kind of opened my eyes to how cool that job can be where you get to play outside all day and protect the natural resources. You get to interact with people, but you also get to drive boats and snowmobilers and four-wheelers.”
Depending on elements like the season or the weather, the job is always changing.
“Right now, it’s summer so it’s starting to pick up,” said Hanson. “Boating season, a lot of fishing is going on right now as well as four wheelers, side-by-sides things like that. A lot of people out on the trails. Where in the fall, we’re typically spending a lot more time in the woods cause the hunting season has picked up. Anything from bird hunting, bear hunting, deer hunting, archery versus firearm and stuff like that. So, fall is really kind of our busy time. Where I’m at over in Gogebic County, I typically work with a lot of snowmobilers. So, in the winter, a normal day looks like getting on my snowmobile and riding along on the trails, going to frozen lakes, checking on a lot of ice fishermen and a lot of snowmobile traffic where I’m at.”
“My day to day, I’m part of the Great Lakes Enforcement Unit so I’m on Lake Superior,” said DeLonge. “I deal primarily with our commercial state and travel commercial fishing and anything on Lake Superior and also on aquatic invasive species.”
Their job is very much a division of law enforcement, like the officers who might pull you over for speeding or help you in a time of crisis.
“We go through the same training facility,” said Hanson. “We take the same licensing exam as troopers and other law enforcement officers do. The difference is, is we know all the Michigan laws in addition to all of the DNR laws and regulations. So, it seems like we might have more authority, but that’s not the case. We just know more laws as well as the DNR laws and the Michigan laws as well.”
With many rewarding moments along the way.
“I’ve been working with the ‘Becoming and Outdoors Woman’ program with the department,” said DeLonge. “It is probably fairly well known up here in the Upper Peninsula as it’s done up in Big Bay at Bay Cliff Health Camp. In that role we teach different classes for women to get involved in the outdoors. I teach a self-defense; self-confidence course and I also teach marine safety course. There aren’t any real crazy stories with that other than it’s rewarding for me to see the women in that program get involved in that and come out of their shell and be more comfortable enjoying the outdoors and feel safe doing that.”
“I think it was about two years ago actually,” said Hanson. “I got a call of an injured eagle, or a sick eagle that was kind of off in the muck, in this little swamp, pond kind of thing. The people who called me said the eagle hadn’t been moving for over 24 hours and is just sitting there and they think something is wrong with it. So, I had to kayak out to this eagle, but when I reached the rock bar that it was sitting on, it saw that I was coming, and it tried to run away from me. So, it started running away and when it got into the water, it was really muck so it started using its wings to try and swim forward. So, I had to kayak over there and by this time the eagle was swimming and it got stuck in the muck and its wings were completely submerged and it was covered in mud and now I’m two feet away from this bird and I’m trying to think, ‘How am I going to get this guy out of the muck?’ So, I took my paddle, and I wedged it down into the muck, underneath this eagle and when I turned my paddle up, all of the muck from the other side of the paddle is just pouring down on me. It was like raining mud and I was able to pop the eagle out of the mud and put it on the front of my kayak. Its talons are like this and he’s like a foot away from me and I’m talking to this eagle like, ‘It’s okay, buddy. I’m here to help you.'” I had a blanket with me, and I ended up wrapping the eagle in the blanket and I kayaked back to shore with the eagle in my lap. I was able to rescue that eagle from muck and I was able to bring it to a rehab where it got the proper nutrition and antibiotics and stuff that it needed to get better.”
Showing that they’re not only heroes to us, but to everything around us in this place we call home.