By Rhonda Silence, Cook
The men and women of the Minnesota Department of Resources Enforcement
branch - Conservation Officers - have been dubbed the "Thin Green
Line." They are few and far between in the forests and fields of
Minnesota. In September, a new officer, Kathleen Larson, joined
counterparts Conrad Tikkala and Bob Kangas on patrol in Cook County.
Larson is happy to be on the North Shore and looks forward to answering
important questions, such as where are the good fishing spots and where
are the grouse?
At least Larson hopes that will be how most of her encounters with
hunters and fishermen go. In her 11 years with DNR Enforcement, she has
had very few unpleasant experiences. She began her Enforcement career in
Warren, Minnesota. She became familiar with this area when she worked at
the Lake Superior Marine Unit in Duluth. "When the weather got
cold, we worked the whole shore. This has always been one of my favorite
areas," said Larson.
But Larson, and all Conservation Officers, know that they must be
prepared for anything. "We work alone 99% of the time," she
explained. "And most of the people we see have some type of weapon.
You have to have the confidence to handle that."
Larson said her confidence was boosted by time spent at the DNR
Enforcement Training Center at Camp Ripley, Minnesota, shortly before
her transfer north. Conservation Officer Jayson Hansen, a defensive
tactics instructor at the Training Center reinforced her concern.
"Many conservation officers work in remote areas where law
enforcement backup is rare," said Hansen. "Statistics show
that work as a conservation officer is extremely hazardous. In fact,
conservation officers suffer nine times more assaults than other law
enforcement officers. Realistic training in defensive tactics may be a
major deterrent to physical assault."
At the Training Center, DNR Officers work in pairs - one acting as
aggressor and the other defending him or herself. Larson said, "We
had to face 'Red Man' - someone in a protective suit. It was good
training and gets you thinking, 'How will I get out of this
Larson hopes she won't need to use what she's learned. She'd rather get
to know the people hunting and fishing in Cook County. "When you
see me, don't automatically think you're doing something wrong. I just
want to check your license and make sure you're okay," she said.
We're out there for protection."
Larson smiled and added, "We want people out there seeing deer and
grouse - and having a good time."