Arkansas and Oklahoma Wildlife Personnel Receive Training From Canadian Conservation Officers

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation joined together for wildlife human incident training from Canadian conservation officers.

From forensics to investigating which animal is responsible for the attack, game wardens and wildlife biologists received hands-on training.

"These guys in Canada, they deal with this stuff and they have for years," Arkansas Game and Fish Commission large carnivore coordinator Myron Means said. "They deal with annual instances, sometimes more than one a year and they've been putting this protocol and system into place for several years. Through the training that we've seen over the past four days, they know what they're doing."

Bear and other animal attacks occur more often in Canada and British Columbia. Conservation officer Sgt. Kevin Van Damme said this type of training is important.

"If a large predator like a bear were to attack someone, we really want to see first responders that are trained so they can do all the necessary things and take all the necessary steps to protect the public."

Only three bear attacks have been recorded in Arkansas since the Game and Fish Commission was developed and none recorded in Oklahoma. Wildlife crews said they'd rather be safe than sorry.

"We're definitely going to be more prepared even with the mindset of what kind of things to be looking for and what messages we can put forward to prevent anything like this from ever having to come into play," Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation program supervisor Jerry Shaw said.

This type of hands-on training will prepare wildlife biologists and game wardens for anything.

"Seeing a physical representation of what these animals are capable of, it's an eye-opener," Shaw said. "To have realistic training tools, we're not having to look at something on a screen, not looking at photographs. It's actually a live representation, actual evidence marks placed there from animals and it just makes the whole message seem present, instead of learning something from a textbook."

The training included real-life scenarios with dummy victims and evidence. The groups closed out the week with a morgue scenario and learned how to investigate to find which animal to capture after an attack.

Means said it's not likely someone will be attacked by a bear, but recommends talking and making noise while hiking in areas where bears could live. He said bears will likely move on without issue if they come in contact with a human.

Other states represented at the conference include Colorado, Illinois and New Mexico.

For more information about the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, visit the agency's website.

For more information about the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, visit the agency's website.