As a North Carolina Wildlife Officer, Captain Greg Daniels' work locations and methods are varied—he might be riding a four-wheeler into a remote mountain site one day and piloting a boat on a lake the next. But wherever the job takes him, he is quick to point out that the sportsmen of North Carolina are his bosses. "We are advocates for hunters and fishermen. A poacher is like a thief—taking away from a person who is following the rules," he said. "An officer's job is to enforce the hunting, boating and fishing laws of N.C." A wildlife officer is armed and carries full authority to enforce any law infraction in the state of North Carolina. According the Daniels, it can be a dangerous job.
Employed for 22 years by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Daniels was promoted to his present rank of captain about a year ago. As a supervisor with patrol duties, he oversees 26 law enforcement personnel in the twelve western counties of the state. His territory covers Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Polk, Swain and Transylvania counties.
"My officers and I tend to stay off the beaten path. We gather information from landowners and do general routine patrol. We have excellent working relations with the public," Daniels said. "The biggest challenge in the job is having enough time to enforce the laws. Our efforts are usually focused around times of high activity such as after work and on Saturdays and Sundays. Being sneaky is a requirement. We try to quietly slip into an area to observe poaching." Daniels once sat for 12 hours without moving to make a case against a poacher.
When asked what the top violations in our area are, Daniels listed: no fishing or hunting license, over the limit, unlawful method of hunting such as spotlighting and hunting from a vehicle. He also routinely gives tickets for littering.
Wildlife officers also play a part in preserving wildlife. They protect endangered species or species of growing concern such as bald eagles, snakes, bog turtles and amphibians from poachers. Daniels also gives training in boating safety and hunter education for school children and the general public.
Daniels said, "My dream was to become a wildlife officer. Ever since I was a young boy I have been infatuated with wildlife and animals. My father was a sheriff in Avery County so the law enforcement part of the job appealed to me also."
Daniels found the education he needed to realize that dream at Haywood Community College. He is a 1983 graduate of HCC's Fish and Wildlife Management Technology program. "The college opened my eyes to the small wonders—microsystems that are worlds all in themselves. From bugs to bears, I got a lot of hands-on experiences as part of my education." From recognizing animal tracks to knowing how to conduct an investigation, Daniels said that the foundation for a lot of his job skills started at HCC.
Recently, the DOT requested that he do a necropsy on a dead bear to determine what killed it. Using skills that he learned while a student at HCC, he was able to conclude that the bear had been shot not hit by a car. Using this evidence the Wildlife Resources Commission later made a case and fined the people responsible for the kill.
Daniels admits that he doesn't get a lot of thanks in his line of work. "But if by enforcing the laws, we encourage people to be more mindful of maintaining and preserving our wildlife population, I can't think of a better job to have in the state."