The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has selected Wildlife Officer Mitch Carlson as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Wildlife Officer-of-the-Year for 2012.
Every year, NWTF honors a California wildlife officer who serves as an outstanding example of its mission on behalf of wild turkeys, turkey hunting and wildlife conservation. Carlson will now be in the competition for the federation’s national officer of the year award.
Wildlife Officer Carlson patrols northern Tehama County, which is known for healthy turkey populations. During the spring and fall turkey hunting seasons, he devotes much of his patrol time to protecting the resources and has developed an excellent reputation for differentiating between turkey hunters and poachers.
On his own initiative, Carlson in 2012 coordinated and implemented a wildlife habitat restoration project on the Merrill’s Landing Wildlife Area. The 300-acre wildlife area had experienced a massive noxious weed infestation resulting in dramatically reduced habitat quality.
“Waist-high yellow starthistle, a noxious weed, choked off native vegetation and rendered the area almost useless to wildlife,” said Carlson. “Habitat quality, more than anything else, affects wildlife populations.”
In order to complete his vision for a restored wildlife area, Carlson brought together several state and federal agencies, including CDFW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CAL FIRE, the Tehama County Fish & Game Commission and others to provide labor and funding for the restoration. The ongoing project should be complete by the spring of 2014.
In addition to turkeys, the project will benefit black-tailed deer, waterfowl, song birds, resident upland game birds and various species listed as threatened or endangered such as the elderberry longhorn beetle, western yellow-billed cuckoo, bank swallow and Swainson’s hawk.
Carlson has been a wildlife officer for 11 years and takes pride in the protection of resources and sharing his knowledge, experience, training and education with other wardens by being a firearms and defensive tactics instructor, defensive tactics and firearms committee member, firearms armorer, and TASER instructor. He is the lead trainer in defensive tactics for CDFW’s Wildlife Officer Academy. He is also an avid turkey hunter in his off-time.
On Jan. 1, 2013 the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) became the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The new name was mandated by AB 2402, which was signed Sept. 25 by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and is one of numerous provisions passed into law during 2012 that affect the department. Traditionally known as game wardens, the department’s law enforcement staff will now be called wildlife officers
The NWTF is a national nonprofit conservation and hunting organization that, along with its volunteers, partners and sponsors, has worked for the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of our hunting heritage. When the NWTF was established in 1973, there were only 1.3 million wild turkeys. Today that number stands at more than seven million birds throughout North America and hunting seasons have been established in 49 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.
Wildlife Officer Mark Michilizzi, CDFW Law Enforcement (916) 651-2084