AUSTIN (KXAN) — As many people creep closer to crossing off their holiday shopping lists, the Texas Game Wardens want you to know they have a wishlist too.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) has launched a new program and website to help Texas Game Wardens get the job done out in the field. Through private donations, Gear Up for Game Wardens will provide specialty, high-tech equipment the wardens could otherwise not afford.
“This is specific equipment, to specific areas, for specific needs for game wardens to do their job in public safety,” said Ellis Powell, assistant commander of Wildlife Enforcement for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
When natural disaster strikes, wardens are on the front lines. During Hurricane Harvey, more than 200 Texas game wardens responded, rescuing more than 12,000 people. Ellis says they relied on each other and technology.
“Digital radios played a critical part in Hurricane Harvey efforts, they were issued to our game wardens who were deployed and it allowed them to communicate not only with us but with other agencies that they would not have been able to communicate with and get our first responders where they needed to be much more quickly,” Powell said. “We knew what was going on in real time and it was simply because of this radio.”
But not every warden in the state has a digital radio. They’re pricey, running about $8,000 a piece. The state provides the basic necessities for wardens to do their jobs, but there is still a critical need for high-tech specialized gear.
That’s why a group of dedicated citizens is partnering with TPWF, the official non-profit funding partner of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), to launch Gear Up for Game Wardens. Online, the state is divided into 8 regions where you can click and see what equipment is needed in each region, why the wardens need it and even how much it cost.
Right now, the Austin region is in need of 5 side scan sonar units used to locate drowning victims and evidence.
“We get a digital image that looks like watching TV of the floor of the lake or the river, we can see items and we can see people down there,” Powell said.
Two search and rescue drones are also needed to find lost people or catch poachers faster than ever before.
“Historically in the past if we were going to do something, trying to locate somebody that was lost from the air it would involve aircraft, a helicopter. You can see the advantage of using a drone over a helicopter for lots of different reason, time, money, everything involved in that,” Powell said.
Other regions are asking for donations for night vision goggles, more digital radios and ATVs. Supporters can provide funds for the priority needs, make a general donation or learn more about the program. One hundred percent of the funds raised will go to the Gear Up for Game Wardens effort.