Within the department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Bureau of Warden Service, is the Aviation Division. This division was created several decades ago for the purpose of enforcing Maine’s fish and wildlife laws. It was in the late 1930’s that an aircrafts speed and vantage point was recognized as an efficient, and sometimes the only method, of detecting activity in a state as unique and remote as Maine.
This tradition continues today. A Warden Pilot can quickly locate areas of activity and pass this information on to a District Warden. This information allows wardens to more efficiently plan their day. The resulting savings in time and vehicle miles allows the Warden Service to concentrate their efforts in areas of high resource usage.
The Aviation Division is comprised of three aircraft and three full time pilots. Each pilot is also a sworn Game Warden. As our aircraft are seasonally equipped with wheels, pontoons, or skis, a Warden Pilot can oftentimes land on Maine’s several thousand lakes, rivers, ponds, and suitable roads, to address fish and wildlife law violations.
Search and rescue is a large component of today’s Bureau of Warden Service and the Aviation Division is no exception. Warden Pilot’s are the most often called resource within the state. This is primarily due to their extensive geographical knowledge of the state from the air, and additionally, their ability to respond to remote areas on a year round basis. Warden pilots fly upwards of 250 hours a year on such calls and have been responsible for saving many lives within our woods and cold waters.
Resource management flights are another important responsibility of a warden pilot. The Aviation Division stocks more than 195 lakes and ponds with live trout and salmon annually. Game Warden pilots will release more than 182,000 fish, or over 28,000 pounds, into Maine waters each year. Aerial stocking of fish has proven over the years to be the least stressful method of delivering fish to inaccessible or distant locations.
Other resource management flights involve the Bald Eagle censes and deeryard surveys. Telemetry flights of radio collard Black Bear and Lynx are conducted throughout the year. As are, summer and winter angler surveys to determine the fishing pressure on our inland waters.
Aircraft are an important aspect of the day-to-day operations of IF&W and to Maine’s outdoor resource, its citizens, and those that visit here.