Veteran Florida state game warden, Bob Lee, shares his experiences over 30 years of protecting Florida’s natural animal resources. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how his patrol of Florida’s inshore and offshore wilderness areas led to many high-speed boat chases and hair-raising adventures. He also relates how, after retirement, he befriended one of the state’s most notorious poachers.
Bob Lee began his career as a Florida state game warden in 1977 under the auspices of what was then the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC). Twenty-two years later, in 1999, that agency (GFC) merged with the Florida Marine Patrol to form the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), where Bob continued to work until he retired in 2007. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has about 725 sworn law enforcement officers. From what Bob can tell, it’s the largest state conservation agency in the US. By comparison, California has the lowest ratio of game wardens to population in all of North America, with its Department of Fish and Game having only 240 field-level game wardens, but twice the population at 37 million. Like other state game wildlife agencies, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission enforces rules to protect the state’s fish and wildlife and to keep waterways safe for millions of boaters. Its law enforcement officers are often among the first on the scene to help when natural disasters occur. They are also often the sole law-enforcement presence in many remote parts of the state. Veteran agent Bob Lee was first stationed in Putnam County, in northeast Florida, where he remained for his entire career. He worked the St. Johns River for twelve years before being promoted to lieutenant and extending his reach to Putnam, St. Johns, and Flagler Counties. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on May 16, 2011.