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Tennessee Tech Grad Becomes Game Warden in Texas 
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Post Tennessee Tech Grad Becomes Game Warden in Texas
2 new game wardens arrive in Cameron County

Posted: Monday, September 9, 2013 1:10 am

Michael Rivera | Valley Morning Star

Two new game wardens in Cameron County must now put the theory they learned in the training academy into practice.

Texas native Derrick Lopez went through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden Training Academy alongside David Stokes of Orlando, Fla.

“I went to school at Tennessee Tech specifically to be able to become a game warden,” Stokes said.

“I wanted to come to Texas because I heard they have the best game wardens.”

Stokes applied twice to the academy and was accepted on his second time around.

“You are allowed one try per year on average and on the second try I was admitted,” he said.

To be accepted, prospective cadets must be at least 21 years old and have at least a bachelor’s degree. Both Lopez and Stokes have a bachelor’s degree in wildlife science.

The training academy in Hamilton is 30 weeks.

“You stay in dorms with 10 people in small bunk beds, tight living quarters,” Stokes said. “You learn everything from transportation code to penal code, plus your parks and wildlife code.”

A month before graduation, the two cadets were given their assigned county that they would report to.

Out of a graduating class of 28, Stokes and Lopez were assigned to Cameron County and started work here not more than a month ago.

“These guys were the lucky ones. The academy decides which game warden goes where,” said Capt. Fernando Cervantes.

“They try to fit the warden to the location.”

“So far,” says Stokes, “it’s not that different from when I lived in Orlando since we lived off of the coast.

“I do have to work hard to learn Spanish since a lot of the people I come in contact with don’t speak English.”

Cervantes said the new game wardens are assigned with other wardens to allow them to learn their job duties.

“They are fitting in real well,” said Cervantes. “It’s kind of like going to college, a lot of theory and now they get to apply it on the job.”

Lopez said he sold his house and moved his family to Cameron County.

“You have to be able to be confident being so close to the border. Also we are there for the public,” Lopez said. “We do a lot of outreach programs, always interacting with the public, letting them know that we are there. We may be the first and last contact they ever get because there are so many people who fish and hunt from out of state. So we try to make it count every time.”

“We never go off duty,” Lopez said. “If somebody calls and they say someone has been shooting deer on their property, no matter the time, we will respond.”

Game wardens have the authority to make arrests. “We have authority on the land and on the water,” said Cervantes.

“Game wardens are state peace officers. Our primary mission is to protect the natural resources of the state of Texas, fish and game. We also have the authority to enforce traffic laws,” Cervantes said.

When patrolling and doing their day-to-day duties, situations can sometime become dangerous.

“Every day is a potential dangerous day,” Stokes said.

“Especially in hunting situations where the people we come in contact with have guns,” Lopez added.

“Anything can happen at any minute,” said Stokes.

They occasionally partner with local authorities.

“We work hand in hand with the local police agencies to protect and patrol this area,” Lopez said.

“We also work with Homeland Security, being so close to the border,” said Cervantes.

There are 10 wardens in Cameron County. Each day, nearly 500 Texas game wardens dedicate themselves to protecting the state’s natural resources.

It’s a legacy they have carried on since game wardens first enforced resource conservation laws in Texas in 1895. ... f6878.html

Mon Sep 09, 2013 5:26 pm
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