Some women, faced with an empty nest and time on her hands, might find a part-time job, or take up a new hobby.
Not Terry Barr. Her idea of fun and community service was to answer the call to become a volunteer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly the California Department of Fish and Game), headquartered in Redding.
“I did not realize how vast the Department of Fish and Wildlife is,” Barr said. “It’s huge! It’s not just about animals. There’s the water part, the conservation part and the part where we deal with the public, as a sort of ambassador, such as when I’ve interviewed fishermen along the river, which is really interesting, and a lot of fun.”
As unpaid volunteer representatives of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Barr and the other volunteers receive training and wear uniforms.
At home, Barr’s husband proudly and jokingly calls his wife a “fish cop” and marvels how this diminutive woman can happily hike for miles in Platina with a GPS system to document a deer count, or investigate various road kill (skunk, raccoon, squirrel, etc.).
Perhaps the duty that most surprises people is when Barr tells them she sometimes extracts bear teeth, done after a hunter’s bear kill to validate the animal’s age. Just another day as a volunteer, Barr said, but every day offers a plethora of fascinating, interesting and serious work.
It’s that time of the year when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recruits volunteers for the agency’s Natural Resource Volunteer Program.
Application deadline is July 21.
To be eligible, volunteers must be available during the week and on some weekends, commit to at least 24 hours a month, be willing to perform various assigned duties, work with minimal supervision, have a valid California drivers license (and good driving record and medical approval), and be free of felony convictions.
After that, the real fun begins. Volunteers might:
• Transport injured or orphaned wildlife to rehabilitation centers.
• Educate the public about wildlife encounters.
• Support agency biologists during field surveys.
• Work in the office, entering data or working the front counter.
• Patrol and monitor DFW lands for evidence of poaching, pollution, illegal collection and unlawful intrusion.
• And yes, pull bear teeth.
Steven M. Stiehr, Lieutenant Specialist for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, coordinates the Natural Resource Volunteer Program, which has been operating for three years in Redding, and currently has 16 volunteers.
He says that there really is no “typical” volunteer, which is part of what makes the program so successful.
“We have had a variety of volunteers,” he said. “We’ve had young people right out of high school, and older, retired folks who’ve always had an interest in animals and the outdoors, and had every intention to find an occupation in that field, but never did.”
Or, for some college-aged volunteers, the program allows them to spend time in the program and see how they like it, before they commit to a career. Stiehr said that can also work in a person’s favor when it comes time for employment opportunities, because the candidate is already known by the staff.
“What a great way to decide if you want to work in this field,” he said.
Stiehr added that volunteers have included bankers, moms, construction workers and people who’ve never hunted or fished, people who arrive somewhat squeamish, but who end up confidently handling fish and clipping fins, or maybe identifying and picking up snakes.
He said at least four nurses have joined the ranks as volunteers, including Cindy Crockett of Redding, who formerly worked as an operating room nurse. She graduated the volunteer training program with Barr, and, like Barr, has done everything from pulling bear teeth to data entry.
“I have a lot of respect for law enforcement and what they do,” Crockett said as she worked on entering information about deer counts into the computer. “Being a volunteer allows me to help them.”
Crockett said she also likes the variety that comes with being a volunteer, opportunities like looking at a trapper’s bobcat skins – which she described as “just beautiful”.
It’s easy to apply for a volunteer position with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Stiehr said. First, those who are interested should call and talk with Stiehr on the phone before filling out an application. After that, they can get an application at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
Barr and Crockett are glad they became volunteers, because it’s a rewarding and interesting experience that offers a nearly endless source of new stories and adventures.
“We love it,” Barr said. “It’s not just the work, but it’s the camaraderie with the staff and other volunteers that makes this so much fun.”
Crockett agreed. ” The great thing about the volunteer jobs is they’re always different. There are so many perks. You get to see the countryside and the interworkings of something most people would never get access to. I’m doing data entry today, but there’s really cool stuff, like going in an airplane to help drop fish in lakes, or counting birds.”
“The volunteers, they really are our best ambassadors.”
What: Volunteer opportunities at the Redding branch of the California Fish and Wildlife office.
Where: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 601 Locust Street in Redding
When: Application deadline is July 21. 2014
How: Call (916) 358-1948 to reach Lt. Steven Stiehr, CDFW Northern Enforcement District Volunteer and Reserve Warden Coordinator, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.