April 29, 2024

MDIFW News - Maine Game Warden Of The Year Honored, Other Wardens Recognized At Annual Awards Banquet

For Immediate Release: April 29, 2024

AUGUSTA, Maine - Game Warden Josh Smith of Division A in Gray, a game warden of nearly 20 years, was honored Friday, April 26th, by his peers when he was selected as the Maine Game Warden of the Year. Game Warden Sergeant Josh Beal of the Downeast region of the state was honored as supervisor of the year, and longtime retired chief pilot Roger Wolverton was honored as Legendary Game Warden of the Year.

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso was the featured speaker for the annual awards ceremony, and she discussed the notable accomplishments of the Warden Service and the Department from the past year, as well as the Warden service response and actions during the Lewiston shooting.

"In the Conservation world, we often talk about Conservation heroes. People who inspire others, who push the boundaries, take risks, and move the field in a positive direction. You are those heroes," stated the commissioner in her opening remarks.

The awards ceremony gives special recognition to game wardens for exceptional performance during 2023. Awards are given for the Maine Game Warden of the Year, Game Warden Supervisor of the Year, the Legendary Game Warden of the Year, as well as awards for conduct above the normal line of duty, outstanding work that merits special attention, and recognizes individuals and groups who assisted the Maine Warden Service.

Achievements that were recognized included incidents where lives were saved, and other awards highlighted the conservation of Maine's fish and wildlife resources in ways deserving of special recognition. The following were recipients of this years annual awards.

2023 Maine Game Warden of the Year Game Warden Investigator Josh Smith of Division A in Gray, a game warden for nearly 20 years, was honored as the Maine Game Warden of the year.

Among the many accomplishments that were noted, Josh was recognized for his work on challenging cases that included missing persons, prohibited persons possessing firearms, illegal fish stocking, illegal possession of exotic species, commercial bait dealers, and fatal crashes.

Of note was one investigation where 15 deer were killed illegally, and his work to bring closure to a family of someone missing for over ten months.

Along with his accomplishments as a law enforcement officer, Smith was lauded for his work and place in the community, where has worked hard to develop a rapport with landowners, outdoorsmen, and other agencies.

He also was praised for the ways he has found to give back to the community, including donating flies that he meticulously tied for raffles and benefits, helping with veterans hunts, or bringing neighbors kids out on turkey hunts.

In addition to Joshs own investigations, it was noted he makes himself available to help area wardens working illegal activity, investigating incidents, reviewing search warrants, or covering calls to allow other wardens to continue their work.

Smith was also praised for his work on the night of October 25th, the Lewiston shooting. While not actively on call, Smith was one of the first officers to arrive at the second shooting scene. Josh went into the scene, and started helping any way he could, including transporting a critically injured person to the hospital in his truck after he learned there were no more ambulances available.

2023 Maine Game Warden Supervisor of the Year: Sergeant Josh Beal, of Division C in Bangor, was awarded the Supervisor of the Year Award. Josh has been a sergeant in the Downeast region of Maine since 2021, where he has quickly earned the respect of his peers, his staff, and the community.

Josh was recognized for his ability to make sure his staff gets the support, guidance, and tools they need to be successful. He works with his staff in a variety of roles, joining them in the field and assisting with investigations. He often changes his days off to make sure he is available with investigations, trainings, PR events, or to help others during a difficult time.

It was noted that his work ethic and tenacity are contagious, and his calm demeanor, and strong communication skills allow him to be an extremely valuable member of his section, division, and to the MWS supervisory staff. He was also praised for his work with his section during the past fall where there were several vacancies in his section, yet his group still maintained an excellent attitude while processing multiple cases simultaneously.

Beal was also praised for thinking outside the box, and bringong new techniques and skills to existing issues and cases. He also is extremely active in teaching skills to others, as he is a supervisor for the WTO program, is part of the Warden Service training committee, and is an OUI/SFST instructor.

**2023 Legendary Game Warden Award: ** Retired Game Warden Pilot Roger Wolverton began his career in 1974 in the St. Aurelie district on Maines northern border with Quebec. From there he went to Millinocket, and then to Jefferson and the central Maine area where he later became a Game Warden Sergeant then Chief Pilot for the Maine Warden Service.

Wolverton was praised for his work with other wardens, his tireless work ethic, and his innovation. Several of his high profile rescues and cases were highlighted at the banquet, including the rescue of two missing ice fishermen in Millinocket on a blizzardy night with temperatures at 20 below zero. Wolvertons perseverance and instincts enabled him to rescue the frozen pair that were near death. The two spent ten days in the hospital recovering from their experience.

Wolverton was also lauded for his work as a pilot, including a night when he located a lost individual in the dark of the night flying his plane in winds that gusted over 50 miles an hour while wearing night vision googles. He was able to circle the area, and located a small fire the individual had started, and then was able to direct wardens to the area.

It was also noted that Wolverton was involved in the training and hiring of Game Warden candidates, worked in the acquisition of the new green uniforms for Wardens, helped establish the Warden Investigators positions, worked with Marine Patrol on the use of sonar in locating drowning victims, and worked in a covert capacity in the fall when needed.

In addition to the above awards, the following were presented awards for their work this past year:

2023 K9 Search and Rescue of the Year Award: Preston Pomerleau and K9 Gordon for their work in finding a missing teenage hiker in Grafton Notch who had gotten lost in the middle of the night using the bathroom, and wandered aimlessly for hours, panicked and hypothermic, trying to find his way back.

2023 K9 Conservation Case of the Year Award: Game Warden Chad Robertson and K9 Storm for their work in a criminal trespass complaint where Storm tracked the hunter past multiple no trespassing signs and a game camera.

2023 Meritorious Service Award

Game Warden Tennie Coleman for rescuing a snowmobiler who had gone through the ice, got out, but was nearly frozen and could not move when he got to him.

Game Warden Investigator Josh Smith, Harry Wiegman and Cody York for their immediate response to the Lewiston shooting, entering the scene where the shootings occurred, and rescuing and transporting injured victims.

2023 Exemplary Service Awards:

Game Warden Pilot Nick Mangino, for his support for game wardens from the air, and then when not flying, assisting game wardens in conservation law duties on the ground.

Game Warden Corporal Andrew Smart, acting on an Operation Game Thief tip with sparse information, was able to put together a case and a confession on a hunter killing a deer without hunter orange prior to legal shooting hours.

Game Warden Avery Boucher for his work rescuing an injured hiker on Tumbledown Mountain who was rock climbing and fell off the side of a cliff, and suffered a compound fracture to his leg.

Game Wardens Chris Carney and Steve Milton for their work this fall which resulted in the seizure of 16 illegally killed deer, 111 summonses, and issued 30 OUIs.

Game Warden Charles Brown for his work in finding the body of a person who had been reported missing 9 days prior. Browns investigative work reduced the search area, and he ultimately found the victim deep in the woods, allowing state police to bring the killer to justice.

Game Warden Dan Christianson for his work during bear season, where he had located multiple illegal sites set by four separate individuals that resulted in seven different summonses.

Game Wardens Matt Tenan, Brad Richard, Alan Curtis, Scott Osgood, Eric Rudolph, Joshua Lugdon for their work in find a missing elderly man in a sleet storm after the man had fallen through the ice and couldnt get out of the woods after he was looking for moose antler sheds.

Game Warden Marc DElia for his work and determination in solving an illegal deer snare case that resulted in two people being issued numerous violations including using snares to hunt deer, hunting on Sunday, hunting deer over bait and placing bait to entice deer.

Game Warden James Gushee and Nick Raymond for their work in finding two illegal deer snare sites and issuing multiple summonses to an individual with a history of setting illegal snares.

Wardens Garrett Moody and Josh Theriault for their work this past fall in finding a lost 80-year-old hunter, and two young males who were stranded at night on Bigelow Mountain.

Game Warden Nicholas Raymond for his diligent work during the open water fishing season for multiple cases, including 11 over the limit and gear restrictions cases, as well as one fishing after revocation.

Game Warden Matthew Norcia for his outstanding work over the past year, including issuing 63 summonses and 80 warnings, while also filling in for the warden service aviation division when needed.

Game Wardens Joe McBrine, Brad Richard, Jake Scott and Matthew Tenan. For their outstanding teamwork and performance during the fall season, including catching a dirt bike rider that nearly ran over two women, and cases involving an illegal moose kill, an illegally killed doe and illegally killed bear. The four issued 106 summonses in October and November.

Sergeant Andy Glidden, Sergeant Josh Bubier, Pilot Nick Mangino, Pilot Jeffrey Spencer (ret), Pilot Chris Hilton, Investigator Seth Powers, Warden Josh Lugdon, Warden Brandon Sperrey, Warden Paul Mason, Warden Brad Richard, Warden Scott Osgood (ret), Warden Arron Rideout, and Warden Jonathan Parker for their work in finding two missing Topsham woman who many had presumed dead, but their teamwork, dedication and skills led them to the women who were stuck in the snow on an old logging road.

Game Warden Kale OLeary for his work over the span of two seasons in solving the case of two dead moose, utilizing DNA samples from the teeth. OLeary was also praised for his work on an illegal guiding case this past fall that resulted in multiple summonses.

In addition to the above awards, Al Cowperthwaite, former executive director of the North Maine Woods was recognized with the Colonels Award for his work with landowners and recreational users in ensuring Maines longstanding tradition of public access to private land continues; and the Maine Warden Service Association presented awards to Bobbi-Jo Wallace for her work as a wildlife conflict agent and supervising the departments WCAs; Lincoln Police Officer Ashley Winslow for her help in finding two lost Topsham women this past winter; Alex Michaud and Amos Abbott of the Maine Marine Patrol for their work in assisting the Maine Warden Service with night hunters; Paris Police Officer Breah Pyburn, Oxford County Sherriff Dennis Lowe and Trooper Nick Watson for their work in the apprehension of a convicted felon with an outstanding warrant who killed a moose illegally; to UMaine Machias professor Gerard Zegers for his work in establishing and utilizing a wildlife DNA identification program; and to citizen Lillian Amborn for getting photos, a license plate, and reporting a man shooting ducks at night within 100 yards of a restaurant.