A few years ago, when I’d think of game wardens, a grandfatherly dude who came to scare off a stray bear or check your fishing license came to mind. Chased down poachers. Confiscated those fish you weren’t supposed to be catching because it isn’t (fill-in-the-blank) season.
And yeah, they still do that kind of thing…except the world has changed and, with it, so have the types of cases a wildlife enforcement agent (as game wardens are now known) gets pulled into. So when I began looking around for a security or law enforcement team to build a romantic suspense series around, I bypassed the SEALS and the Rangers and the ex-special forces and focused instead on the law enforcement officers previously known as game wardens, especially those from my adopted home state of Louisiana. And the Wilds of the Bayou series was born.
I first became aware of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division after Hurricane Katrina pushed the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into my hometown of New Orleans back in 2005, sending 80 percent of my bowl-shaped city underwater. As the water sat (because it couldn’t drain out of a bowl), people died, thousands were trapped, officials sat and argued about jurisdiction.
Except the guys from Wildlife and Fisheries. They brought an armada of boats and began plucking people out of the water. That was when I learned that LDWF enforcement agents (the law enforcement branch, as opposed to the biologists) were the state’s first responders in search and rescue operations.
- A wildlife enforcement agent is a state police officer with special training. So yeah, he can write you a ticket for an outdated fishing license. He also can ticket you for speeding or drug possession.
- Wildlife agents have specialized equipment (no not THAT, get your mind out of the gutter!). I mean like off-road vehicles and boats that allow them to get into out-of-the-way rural areas normally hard to access. Areas where criminals hide out.
- These agents have very hazardous duty because 1) most of the people they’re dealing with (hunters and criminals) are armed and know how to use their weapons; and 2) the terrain they cover, often at night, is rough. Especially in Louisiana, where so much of their territory is swamp, marsh, or bayou—so not only are they encountering heavily armed people, but deadly alligators, swamp rats, and snakes.
- Most wildlife enforcement agents are men. When I asked my law enforcement consultant about this, he said there are two reasons: first, most people who love hunting and fishing and outdoors enough to want to do the work are men; second, it has always been a male-dominated field but there are some women who’ve broken in.
That, of course, ensured that the lead character in my new novel BLACK DIAMOND, book two of the series after WILD MAN’S CURSE (they can be read as standalones), would be a woman agent. Jena Sinclair, who also had a big role in the first book, in BLACK DIAMOND takes center stage as a damaged but ultimately strong agent who has more than earned the respect of her male coworkers.
You know—the other game wardens.