SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two West Virginia Division of Natural Resources staff members have been recognized by the state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) for their efforts in game management, conservation and promoting hunter safety.
During the NWTF’s annual awards banquet in January, District 4 wildlife manager Mark Richardson received the 2017 Wildlife Manager of the Year Award, which recognizes DNR wildlife managers who demonstrate outstanding efforts in the management and conservation of wild turkey and other wildlife resources. Richardson has been a wildlife manager with DNR for 10 years. At the same event, Natural Resources Police Officer Chris Fitzwater was given the Sharp Spur Award, in recognition of his work investigating illegal turkey hunting and promoting hunting safety. Fitzwater is stationed in Braxton County in DNR District 3.
“DNR is proud of everything Mark (Richardson) and Officer Fitzwater have done to make sure our wild turkey population is healthy and that hunters are being safe,” said DNR Director Stephen McDaniel. “I want to thank the National Wild Turkey Federation for recognizing their hard work and giving them these much-deserved awards.”
Richardson manages four wildlife management areas in DNR District 4, including Beury Mountain, Camp Creek State Forest, Meadow River and Tate Lohr. He also frequently assists staff in other wildlife management areas and on special projects, where his expertise in wildlife habitat management, research and heavy equipment operation is needed. Richardson has developed wildlife clearings, water holes and road improvements, and has improved habitat on multiple wildlife management areas by creating successful food plots. Richardson played a key role in a wild turkey restoration project coordinated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He has devoted numerous hours over the past three winters baiting, monitoring, moving nets and sitting long hours in blinds to trap turkeys for the project.
Officer Fitzwater located and monitored 15 illegal bait sites in his assigned area last spring. During his patrols, he logged more than 30 miles of travel on foot. His investigations led to the arrests of several suspects on charges of nonresident hunting without a license, exceeding bag limits, hunting over bait, using electronic calls, hunting from a motor vehicle, illegal possession of wildlife and taking wildlife during a closed season. Officer Fitzwater also spends time educating hunters about the importance of basic safety while turkey hunting.