By Doug Leier
Robert Timian, enforcement division chief, retired after 35 years with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. October 1, Scott Winkelman assumed his new role as head of enforcement. Winkelmann’s career began as a conservation officer in South Dakota in 2002. He then moved to North Dakota in 2003 and was the district game warden in Bottineau until 2007. In 2007, he moved to Bismarck as the wildlife investigator and was promoted to investigation supervisor in 2015.
How did you get interested in wildlife enforcement?
Scott: I went to college at the University of North Dakota and got a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife biology. While I was doing that, I started working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seasonally. And the more I was around other wildlife professionals, I just gravitated towards the enforcement side. I enjoy being able to work directly with hunters and anglers and those who are utilizing our resources.
How is your management style going to be as the chief game warden?
Scott: I will be very supportive of our game wardens. I feel we hire very competent, talented, educated, skilled people to be game wardens in North Dakota. But while I’m supporting them, I’m fairly hands off because we hire such good people. I trust them to do their jobs and they do it well.
What are some of the challenges that you foresee?
Scott: These are certainly trying times for enforcement in general. With the COVID pandemic going on and where that’s going to take us into the future, we’re reacting to that on a daily basis and we’ll continue to have to do that. A major item that changes is technology. Whether it’s technology, as in hunting or fishing equipment or cell phones, different social media platforms, and that’s not going to change.
North Dakota is a fairly big state. How demanding is that on your game wardens?
Scott: It certainly is demanding and a challenge at times. We are a small agency and a small division. We have 39 total employees in the enforcement division, but only 28 field wardens. So, they do have to cover large areas and they do a tremendous job with what they’re allowed to do, but it can be a challenge at times.
During these unusual times, the Game and Fish Department has sold a record number of fishing licenses. How are your game wardens handling the extra participation in the outdoors?
Scott: They’ve been handling it well. They’re certainly taking more calls, they’re making more contacts in the field, they’ve been busy, but they’re doing a tremendous job.
How has technology, especially in the last decade, changed how your wardens do their investigations?
Scott: Thinking back even to when I started, the different technologies, now everybody has a mobile computer in their hand that they carry with them and they’re posting pictures, they’re chatting instantly as things are happening. So, we’re always reacting by trying to investigate based on social media tips. We get a lot of complaints based off social media and it is an item
that we are looking at on a constant basis. If you witness a game and fish violation, call the Report All Poachers number at 701-328-9921.
Featured Photo: Scott Winkelman was recently elevated to the position of Enforcement Division Chief with the NDG&F Dept. after Robert Timian, a 35-year employee, retired from the position earlier this year. NDG&F Photo.