Conservation officer fits his job well

Sometimes there is little separation between the man and the job; they go together like pie and ice cream.

By Tor Forsberg

Special to the News

Sometimes there is little separation between the man and the job; they go together like pie and ice cream.

Mark Brodhagen remembers wanting to be in the RCMP when he was a youngster, but that was before he and his parents were talking to a game warden one day and he asked his folks what a game warden did; when they told him, Mark knew he’d found his calling.

“I’ve always been an outdoor kind of guy and as soon as I knew a fellow could be outdoors, flying around in helicopters and airplanes, going up rivers and on lakes in boats, being provided with a 4X4, and getting paid; well, what more could I want? I also liked the element of enforcement in the job.”

It’s a natural fit for a man who grew up in the Yukon, trapping, hunting and fishing with his Kaska and Tahltan family, and he wears the role as comfortably as he wears the uniform.

Born in Whitehorse, he grew up in Watson Lake and Upper Liard, attended Yukon College for two years in that institution’s renewable resources management program and then went mining in BC for a couple of years.

He knew what he was going to do and he did it; he saved money for Lethbridge Community College where he got a degree in applied conservation enforcement.

Then there was seasonal work in Saskatchewan for two years before getting a full-time position in Fort St. John.

“I liked Fort St. John; it was a great place to live and the countryside is beautiful, but I always wanted to come back to Watson Lake and be near my family,” he says. “I was four years in BC before coming home five years ago.”

Watson Lake is also the home town of Brodhagen’s partner and childhood sweetheart, Kathie Thibaudeau, and it was here they started their family. The couple have an 18-month-old son, Jimmy, and another baby on the way.

They still go to Telegraph Creek for the salmon fishing season every year, but Mark’s hunting and fishing for recreation time has been somewhat curtailed by his growing family.

“It’s a good trade-off,” he says. “And I just got back from a successful sheep hunt.”

The best part of being a conservation officer?

“The opportunity to be out on the land” said Mark.

And the worst part?

He hesitated just long enough for the receptionist in the office, Hazel, to volunteer, “Being in the office!” Mark agreed.

The amount of office work involved in any job that would be considered a promotion in this field is enough to keep Mark content with his title of district conservation officer, a position he was offered shortly after his arrival.

Is there any conflict in holding a job of this nature in the town where he grew up?

“I kind of thought there might be,” he says. “But it hasn’t been a big issue. We have regulations and policies that determine our actions and our decisions; most people understand that.”

Has he noticed any changes in the area from the time he was a kid to now?

“The obvious one is the diminishing numbers of caribou,” he says. “There are wetter summers and snowier winters, too.”

What about the movement of wild animals into town?

“We have the wolves coming in and killing dogs; that’s been going on a long time. Now we have caribou coming into town, and bison.

There’s been bison right in people’s yards and we have had to go and herd them out. A couple of days ago there were two bison at Junction 37; it seems they have gone down the highway because no one has seen them come back towards the main herd south of here.

“Bison and caribou are not nearly the problem that a cow moose and a calf present when they come into town. Lots of people have no idea how fiercely a cow moose will defend her young, and how dangerous she can be.”

Bears? Has he had any memorable experiences with the territory’s largest predator? Watson Lake has had bears in the town limits on several occasions,

“We never want to shoot a bear,” Mark says. “If we get a call about a bear in town and we can determine the animal is not habituated or food-conditioned, the preferred thing to do is to live trap it, tag it and relocate it. That is the policy with ‘first offenders.’ If a bear is going to continue to come around the houses, our policy is always human safety first.”

Asked for his favourite wild animal story, Mark recalls the time he got a call late at night in Fort St. John concerning a lynx that’d been hit by a vehicle on a busy road. The caller wanted Mark to come and dispatch the animal as it was not yet dead.

When Mark got there and saw the lynx walking a bit before falling over and then getting up to walk again, he decided the creature might have a chance. Using a snare pole, he was able to get the wounded animal into a kennel for the drive to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Dawson Creek. The lynx had suffered bruising on its head and had been blinded in one eye; the woman in attendance at the centre was not certain he would make it.

Two weeks later she called Mark to tell him the big tom was blind in one eye, yes, but was otherwise healthy and ready to be released.

“Kathie was with me when we let him out in the bush,” Mark reminisces. “It was a feel-good moment to see him run away, that big tom. Too often we have to put them down.”

Tor Forsberg is a freelance writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read