By Joe McBrine
Connor Haskins dreams of becoming a game warden one day, and his mother, Ashley Handzlik, wants to see her child’s dreams to come true.
That’s why Handzlik recently contacted Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Game Warden Matthew Tenan to see if Connor could spend some time with him to see what being a game warden is all about.
He knows first-hand that game wardens do search and rescue. That’s because Connor remembers getting lost in the Maine woods as a young child and that game wardens came to look for him. He just wanted to talk to a real warden to ask about a typical day on the job.
A few days later, Matthew Tenan stopped by Connor’s home and learned that Connor has Pompe Disease. Connor’s body cannot make protein that breaks down complex sugars for energy.
Warden Tenan decided that Connor needed his own day to feel what it is like to be on patrol as a Maine Game Warden.
That day came Sept. 15, but little did Connor and his family know what Warden Tenan had in store. Matt went to work rounding up parts and pieces of old game warden uniforms. He had an embroidered name tag made just for Connor to wear on the job. Warden Tenan began calling other wardens to ask for help. Warden Tenan wanted this day to be amazing for Connor and pulled out all the stops to make it happen.
Warden Tenan met with Connor’s seventh grade teacher and the principal and learned they were excited to help make the day special for Connor and his classmates.
Connor began the day by riding the bus to school -- just so that he could show his friends his new game warden uniform. Once Connor and his friends arrived at Lubec Elementary School, they were whisked away to the cafeteria for a surprise assembly. Once there, Warden Tenan talked about the job of a Maine Game Warden and answered students’ questions. During the event, Connor was sworn in as a Junior Maine Game Warden. That’s when things got even more interesting.
Dispatch called Warden Tenan to a poaching complaint in Lubec and suggested he respond with back-up. Connor was just the person for the job.
A scenario was pre-planned where a roadkill deer would be used in a poaching incident on some Inland Fisheries and Wildlife property in Lubec. Game wardens had placed the deer and left evidence of the crime.
Warden Tenan and his partner, Connor, responded to the scene where Connor located a deer that had been shot out of season. The wardens stashed their patrol vehicle down the road and hid in the bushes near the deer that had been left. They hoped the poacher would return to the scene of the crime for his deer.
A short time later, the poacher (played by Game Warden Jason Scott) returned for the deer. Once the deer was in the bed of the poacher’s truck. The wardens confronted him and obtained a confession.
Connor then requested that Warden Alan Curtis and his K-9 respond to the scene to assist in locating additional evidence. Warden Dave Simmons assisted Connor in properly collecting the evidence.
Connor learned how to photograph and collect evidence and how to write court summons. He also learned about fingerprints and DNA.
Game Wardens took Connor to lunch before returning him home to his mother Ashley who was waiting to hear Connor’s stories about a day as a Maine Game Warden. All told, it was a dream come true for Maine’s newest Game Warden.
Editor’s Note: Joe McBrine has been a Maine Game Warden for 28 years. He was recently named the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association Officer of the Year, out of 9,000 wildlife enforcement officers from the United States and Canada.
Connor Haskins is being sworn in as a Maine Junior Game Warden. Photo courtesy of Joe McBrine
Maine Junior Game Warden Connor Haskins (left), is hot on the trail of a suspected deer poacher with Game Warden Alan Curtis and his K-9. Photo courtesy of Joe McBrine