By Alexander Shedd
Two new conservation officers are joining the ranks of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) for southwest Virginia. Officers Ron Wood and Andrew Rohrer will be assigned to Craig County and Pulaski County, respectively, and look forward to their new assignments.
“I chose the job to be outside,” said Officer Rohrer. “I enjoy hunting and kayaking, hiking… just to be outside is what I’m most excited for, because I worked indoors a lot before this. That change of pace is going to be really nice.”
Officer Wood added that he is most excited for “Working outdoors and educating the public about the resources we have in the state.”
DWR is responsible for the management of inland fisheries, wildlife and recreational boating, as per the department’s website. DWR conservation officers receive law enforcement training at the department’s academy and headquarters in Henrico County, Va., in the Richmond area, where they work through a 26-week training program. The program includes combat and survival training, as well as education on conservation law, boating and driving off-road vehicles such as ATVs.
“We do everything from defensive tactics to officer water survival—that was like a 16-hour swimming course—driver training, boat training…” recalled Wood.
“[Physical training] in the mornings, usually for an hour, followed by a lot of classroom time, case law, stuff like that,” Rohrer added.
The officers are also eager to establish strong connections with the citizens of their counties. “I’m hoping for a really close, good working relationship, where they can call me if they have any issues or they see me dropping by, they can wave me down, have a casual conversation if they want, and I can do the same,” said Rohrer.
The new recruits were accompanied by Sergeant John Koloda of the DWR who discussed the work the officers should expect from the job. Sgt. Koloda is currently department supervisor of the New River Valley region where he has worked for the last 19 years. Prior to that, he worked as a conservation officer in Roanoke, Botetourt and Franklin Co. “[We] do just about everything as far as general law enforcement, then all the extra stuff we do as conservation officers as far as boating, driving SUVs, ATVs, tracking stuff,” Koloda explained. “Anything in the woods and fields is our game. Basically, you get paid to get lost in the woods.”
Koloda also spoke on some particularly exciting aspects of being a conservation officer in Virginia in the wake of the successful bust of a large turtle poaching operation in the Commonwealth. “We’ve got covert or undercover guys that work on that stuff that’s hard for us uniformed guys to infiltrate,” he explained. “In the past they’ve done black market-type things… bear gallbladders, those are very expensive on the black market before they ship them over to Asia. They use them for medicinal things. That’s what they’re doing with the turtles; they ship them over to Asia.”
The officers also mentioned the department’s upcoming kid’s fishing days in locations across southwest Virginia. The department will be hosting fishing events for children during May in the following locations: May 7 at the Little River in Floyd Co. on Thunderstruck Road, event time TBD; May 7 at Pandapas Pond in Montgomery Co. at the USFS property from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.; May 7 at Boy Scout Lake in Pulaski Co. at Camp Powhatan from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and May 14 at Wolf Creek in Giles Co. at Narrows Town Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Any individuals interested in a career with the Virginia conservation police or other parts of the Department of Wildlife Resources can visit the official DWR website at dwr.virginia.gov.