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Tag Archive | "conservation officer"

First female conservation officer honored during Women’s History Month


Huldah Neal led an interesting life and is shown here in her later years. As the nation’s first female game warden, Neal patrolled Grand Traverse County on foot, horseback and in a rowboat to enforce the state’s fish and game laws. She not only had an immediate impact on the rampant poaching that plagued her area, but also opened the door for future generations of women to serve as conservation officers. (Photo courtesy of the Traverse Area District Library)

Huldah Neal nominated for induction to Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame

By all accounts, Huldah Neal was no one to fool with.

That’s not to say she wasn’t liked or respected throughout Grand Traverse County, Michigan, which she called home for 70 years. In fact, her 1931 obituary mourned her loss, describing Neal as a “loved pioneer” who was “highly esteemed by a large circle of friends.”

But, Neal was the epitome of what contemporary newspapers referred to as “the new woman” of the 1890s. Civic-minded and socially engaged, Neal had little patience when problems were ignored and allowed to fester. So, while it probably raised eyebrows outside of Grand Traverse County, those who knew her likely weren’t surprised when she grew frustrated by the rampant poaching of fish and game in her area and requested an appointment as a game warden, so she could handle the problem herself.

These sketches of Huldah Neal accompanied a profile of her in the Aug. 15, 1897, edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Neal’s appointment as the country’s first female game warden made news across Michigan and the nation. Many contemporary reports expressed confidence in her abilities to perform the dangerous work of a game warden, due to her tenacity and outdoor skills.

With the stroke of a pen by state game warden and future Michigan governor Chase Osborn in 1897, Neal became a deputy game warden for Grand Traverse County, cementing her little-known legacy as the first female conservation officer in the United States, according to press reports of the day.

To recognize her contributions, and mark the observance of March as Women’s History Month, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division is nominating Neal for induction to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. A panel of judges will decide if she merits induction later this year.

“Huldah Neal was a trailblazer, literally and figuratively,” said Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division chief. “She was fearless in the way she performed her dangerous duties, and in how she broke free from typical roles that society forced on women at that time. She paved the way for new generations of women who proudly serve as guardians of our natural resources. Huldah Neal left a positive legacy for our state. On behalf of all conservation officers, it’s a privilege to nominate her for induction to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.”

Born circa 1855 in Ohio, Huldah Jane Valleau moved with her family to Grand Traverse County in 1861. She married Warren Neal in 1872 and the couple raised two children on their farm near Long Lake. She shared her husband’s love of the outdoors, a passion that didn’t go unrecognized by newspapers reporting on her appointment as deputy game warden.

“Mrs. Neal is a woman of determined character, and has excellent qualifications for such a position,” the Traverse City Record-Eagle wrote on June 6, 1897. “She is an active woods-woman, a good shot, and can give cards and spades to any man in the manipulation of the fishing rod. Besides being an expert in these respects Mrs. Neal is an ardent supporter of the state game and fish laws, and takes much interest in their preservation. The appointment is a good one, and Mrs. Neal will wage an aggressive campaign against violators of the law; and offenders in her locality will find that Mrs. Neal will stand no fooling.”

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Conservation officer rescues man overcome with carbon monoxide


Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink, who is originally from Grand Rapids, and now serving in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink, who is originally from Grand Rapids, and now serving in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink rescued a man earlier this month who was overcome with carbon monoxide while trying to save a homeowner.

The incident occurred at 3:43 p.m. Wednesday, January 11, when Evink was dispatched to a home along Hutt Lake Drive in Schoolcraft County, which is in the mid-eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. A deliveryman for Suburban Propane had gone to fill a propane tank at the home of 59-year-old Ronald Haug. Arriving at the house in Inwood Township, the driver noticed Haug on the floor of his garage.

The 55-year-old deliveryman went into the garage and tried to revive Haug with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He also called emergency operators at Central Dispatch.

“He told the dispatcher he was getting dizzy and couldn’t do CPR any longer,” Evink said. “Dispatchers then lost contact with him.”

Evink, who had been at Indian Lake State Park, roughly 15 miles away, went to the home, driving his four-wheel-drive patrol vehicle through 5 or 6 miles of unplowed roadway to reach the house.

Once there, he saw footprints leading into the garage.

“I opened the service door to the garage and saw two individuals on the ground,” Evink said.

Evink said the deliveryman had a pulse and was breathing, but was unresponsive. Mr. Haug had no pulse and also did not respond. The men had been overcome by carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless toxic gas. Mr. Haug did not survive.

“The delivery man was barely alive,” said Lt. Eugene “Skip” Hagy, a DNR district law supervisor out of the Newberry office. “Mike opened the big garage door and worked to get the victim fresh air and kept trying to get him conscious.”

An ambulance with advanced life support paramedics from Manistique Public Safety got to the house at 4:24 p.m., about 15 minutes after Evink had arrived.

“Had Mike not arrived when he did, there would have likely been two fatalities,” Hagy said.

The deliveryman was in stable condition when he was rushed to Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital in Manistique. Officers interviewed him Thursday night. He was being treated and monitored.

The source of the carbon monoxide is still being investigated.

“The efforts of CO Evink demonstrate the types of lifesaving incidents our officers can be called to respond to at any given moment,” said Lt. Pete Wright, acting Captain for the DNR Region 1 Law Enforcement Division. “He is a great example of the capable type of person we train our officers to be.”

Four days earlier, in a search and rescue incident, Evink was involved in aiding two stranded snowmobilers in Alger County who say he and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer David Tembreull saved their lives.

David Vorhes, 64, of Trenary and Mike Lasley, 56, of West Bloomfield were riding east of Munising in a backcountry area in Burt Township.

“We were stranded out south of the Kingston Plains when we placed a 911 call to (the) Alger County Sheriff around 6 p.m.,” Vorhes said in a message commending the efforts of the two officers.

Vorhes said the two riders were broke down and lost, off trail in 4-5 feet of snow, along the Clyde Lake Road, north of Trail 88 and 43, south of the Adams Truck Trail.

“It was blowing and cold that night,” Evink said.

One of the snowmobilers had just crossed a lake and buried his sled in snow coming off the ice. The second rider went to get help and his machine broke down.

“The engine seized,” Evink said.

Arriving in the area deputies had picked up from cellphone signals, Evink and Tembreull began following snowmobile tracks into the woods and, eventually, footprints.

“Somehow they were able to find us showing exceptional recovery skills, noticing our footprints in a gully then following them until they came upon us,” Vorhes said.

Evink said the officers found the two riders in a makeshift shelter they had fashioned under a pine tree.

“We had no illumination, light or any sort of emergency preparedness kit—a cardinal sin when venturing out in any conditions into the remote Upper Peninsula,” Vorhes said.

The officers activated their patrol lights to let the snowmobilers know they were police approaching.

“They saw our lights and started walking toward us,” Evink said.

After freeing the snowmobile that had been stuck in the snow, the officers and the snowmobilers rode about a half mile to the place where the second sled was broken down.

Determining the engine would not start, they unhooked a belt so the track of the sled would freely spin and the machine could then be towed to a place where it could be retrieved the following day.

Vorhes said this added about two hours to the rescue effort.

“Put simply, Dave and Mike were going to make sure that not only were we returned safety, but our equipment was also returned safety,” Vorhes said. “With weather conditions of zero degrees, without wind chill, winds gusting between 25-30 mph and snowing heavily, creating a very low visibility, they were not fazed or detoured by these conditions.

“Once they located us they kept our spirits high and kept saying that they were having a blast, ‘This is what we live for,’” Vorhes said. “Dave and Mike are heroes. They saved our lives that night.”

Evink said the two snowmobilers were cold, but coherent. The riders began to warm up as they helped in the work to get the sleds out of the woods.

“If they had been stuck out there all night they would have been in pretty bad shape,” Evink said. “Their extremities were pretty cold.”

The men were found about 2.5 miles from Alger County H-58 and only two-tenths of a mile from the Adams Trail.

“With the way the winds and the snow was blowing that night, they would have had no idea they were that close to the road,” Evink said.

The riders were taken back to a staging area where they were met by an Alger County Sheriff’s deputy who returned them to Munising where they spent the night with a relative.

“With Shared areas of responsibility, and with an emphasis on inter-agency cooperation, the U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers and conservation officers oftentimes work together in cooperation to achieve our various management goals,” said Tembreull, who is from L’Anse and has worked with the Forest Service for the past decade.

On the night of the search and rescue, Tembreull and Evink were conducting a joint patrol looking for registrations and safety violations.

“I believe it is important to maintain and foster a strong interagency relationship and assist each other in the best way possible to benefit the public and natural resources,” Tembreull said.

After working for a year as a law enforcement officer with the city of Cadillac, Evink was hired as a conservation officer with the DNR in 2010. A native of Grand Rapids, Evink was assigned to Schoolcraft County and he has been on patrol there since.

“These two incidents are examples of the important role Michigan conservation officers play in lifesaving and search and rescue operations throughout the state,” said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Conservation officers are well-trained and routinely respond to a wide range of situations where people find themselves in need of assistance.”

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.

Learn more about Michigan conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

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