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Wildlife officer at home on the land

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 14, 2011

AKLAVIK - Whether you need to chase away a troublesome bear, teach a youngster how to trap or apply for a hunting permit, Ian McLeod is your man.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ian McLeod has been a Renewable Resources and Wildlife Officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Aklavik since 1997. A large part of his job involves going out on the land, including muskox hunting outside of Aklavik earlier this month. - photo courtesy of Ian McLeod

For the past 14 years, McLeod has been Aklavik's sole renewable resources officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, doing everything from buying fur from local trappers to enforcing hunting regulations to taking students out on the land.

"Every day is different," McLeod said from his office after returning from a muskox hunting trip.

"I like everything, really. Getting out on the land, dealing with people."

And he's on call every day.

"In the winter it's not too bad - there's not that many calls after hours. But in the summer it's busiest - when there's bears, you get calls any time of night," he explained, then laughed.

"I kind of like going out on bear calls. It's exciting. You get to use the sirens."

Maintaining both a responsible attitude and a sense of humour in his position has earned McLeod a great deal of respect within his home community and among others in his field, according to Stephen Charlie, ENR's Inuvik regional superintendent, who's worked with McLeod for about five years.

"He's a superb officer," Charlie said. "Of all our officers within the region, and even within the territory,

Ian's one of the ones that has really taken ownership of passing on knowledge and encouraging traditional lifestyles.

"He's a very valuable asset."

McLeod is too humble to say this about himself, but he does acknowledge that traditional values are important to him and the lifestyle is one he strives to promote through his work.

He knew he wanted to work on the land since he was a young boy, growing up on a steady diet of fish and caribou while learning how to hunt and trap from his parents, who worked in town and went out on the land during their time off.

Now, he said it's hard to imagine a line of work more fulfilling and he'd love to see more young people get involved. For them, he has some advice.

"They've got to get their education for sure and stay physically fit because there's a lot of demanding jobs.

"When you're on the land every day you have to be able to keep up with the young kids," he said, adding it's also crucial to brush up on helpful skills like photography, concise writing and clear public speaking.

He said for young, hopeful wildlife officers it's good to attend meetings of the local Renewable Resource Councils and Hunters and Trappers Committees "to see what the issues are and how people talk about them."

And perhaps most importantly, future wildlife officers should care deeply about their community.

McLeod certainly does - especially when it comes to teaching kids new survival skills and hunting techniques on the land.

He believes there is a future for new trappers in the region.

"It's really important because you want to get to know the kids. They're your future hunters and trappers.

"You want to build a relationship with them early so they'll know you and trust you because you're going to be dealing with them the whole rest of their lives," he said.

Therein also lies the most difficult part of McLeod's job.

"Dealing with violations would probably be the most challenging because you're dealing with people you've known your whole life, but it's got to be done, so you go ahead and do it in a professional manner."

But after more than a decade, and no matter what challenges he faces in his capacity as a law enforcer, McLeod still has the drive the job requires and the ability to work with all types of community organizations to get it done.

"I think I add to the community," he said. "I think people want me here."

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