Patrolling county keeps game warden busy

Larry Woody • Mar 22, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Wilson County game warden Tanner Romsdale's "office" consists of 550 square miles.

That's the size of Romsdale's assigned area as the county's lone game warden, and covering it requires him to be call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"I stay pretty busy," says Romsdale, who was assigned to Wilson County after graduating from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's training academy in 2014.

"I don't have a set shift to work -- wildlife officers make their own schedules -- and some weeks are busier than others," he says. "But there are no dull moments, and sometimes it can be kinda overwhelming."

Romsdale, a native of Lawrenceburg and graduate of UT-Martin, always had a fondness for the outdoors and wanted to be a game warden for as long as he can remember.

His first assignment after graduating from the TWRA academy was Wilson County. Another TWRA official, Jim Hooper, lives in Lebanon where he is a district supervisor and not involved in field work.

Romsdale is one of approximately 150 state-wide TWRA wildlife officers. As an officer he is licensed to carry a firearm and make arrests, unlike a TWRA "wildlife technician" who has no enforcement duties.

For a game warden, those duties are varied.

"We do everything from offer technical assistance on rescue operations to wildlife-damage control," Romsdale says. "We get calls about coyotes and bobcats spotted in neighborhoods. We get calls about trespassing and people hunting without permission. Every one is different. There's no such thing as a 'routine' call."

In addition to responding to calls for assistance, Romsdale patrols the Wilson County area -- both woods and waters -- on the lookout for game-law violators.

"Every year during deer and turkey season we have incidents of road hunting," he says. "I've issued probably 15 road-hunting citations in my three years here. I haven't been here long enough to know if that's a trend, but from talking to folks who have lived here a long time, it seems to be in decline."

Romsdale says most road hunting is "a spur-of-the-moment thing. Someone driving down the road sees a deer or a turkey in a field and can't resist the temptation to shoot it."

On the water, most violations involve fishing without a license, although during crappie season some citations are issued for size-limit and creel-limit violations.

When apprehended, most violators accept their citation without complaint.

"I'd say about 99 percent of them are polite," he says. "I've had only a couple of situations where people wanted to argue or started cussing me."

Most violators get off with just a fine, although punishments vary, and are more severe for repeat offenders. If a case goes to court, Romsdale is called to testify.

Being a wildlife officer has its risks. Like any law enforcement official, they never know who they may be confronting, and how desperate/dangerous the individual may be -- and they are usually armed.

"We are trained to never let our guard down," Romsdale says. "Just one bad encounter could be one too many."

Romsdale got married shortly after graduating from the academy. What does wife Katelyn think of her husband's erratic schedule and the potential risk every time he pins on his badge and leaves the house?

"It's difficult for her at times," Romsdale says, "but she knows this is what I love to do, and she's very supportive."

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