Berrien County - When fall rolls in, so does the busy season for Conservation Rangers in South Georgia.
"Mainly this time of year we get calls and complaints about hunting without permission, hunting deer at night, hunting from the road, a lot of riders and people baiting deer," says Conservation Ranger Morty Wood.
Morty Wood is responding to one of those complaints in Berrien County. "Hunting without permission possibly on this property and we're going to look at the area to see if we can find evidence of that taking place."
When a call comes in, like any law enforcement agency, the rangers want to be quick to respond. "Immediately, as soon as possible. The fresher the case, the better off you are," he says.
But with a shortage of conservation rangers in Georgia, that's not always the case. "Our ability to respond to calls and complaints and our customer service level is really down because of the lack of man power.
Wood works with three other rangers who respond to Berrien, Cook, Atkinson, Lanier, and Lowndes Counties. He says although they are short staffed, these counties are lucky to have rangers of their own. "Roughly 20% of our counties in the state of Georgia are without a conservation ranger assigned to them. Many of our officers are assigned to two or three counties."
No matter how little help the rangers may have, they will continue to work hard and answer all the calls they receive as quickly as possible.
According to Ranger Wood and the Department of Natural Resources -
There are only 222 conservation rangers in Georgia. Of those rangers, only about 75 % of them respond to calls.
In the 2006 Fiscal year, the rangers responded to almost 17,000 complaints, issued almost 10,000 fishing and boating violations and almost 7,000 hunting violations.
They also taught almost 4,000 education, safety and development classes while certifying more than 13,000 hunting students.