They’ve saved a hunter’s life, helped remove a deer running wild through the basement of a home and taught firearms safety classes. They’ve busted poachers, had lunch with kids and learned the ins and outs of natural resources law enforcement.

Since their training began in May, the Department of Natural Resources’ 18 newest conservation officers have gained the experience necessary to be successful when they assume their field stations Wednesday, Dec. 5.

“Our new officers join a staff that’s among the most highly trained in the nation and that for more than 130 years has been dedicated to protecting Minnesota’s citizens and natural resources,” said Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. “We’re proud to welcome them to the fold and confident they’ll carry on our tradition to serving our communities.”

The new officers, who were chosen from among hundreds of applicants, have diverse backgrounds and bring unique experiences to the job. They trained for 15 weeks during the late spring and summer at the Conservation Officer Academy at Camp Ripley, and since mid-August have been working throughout the state with experienced officers.

Following is a list of the new officers and where they will be stationed:

  • Nathan Benkofske – Milaca
  • Anthony Elwell – Thief River Falls #2
  • Clint Fitzgerald – Rochester #2
  • Anthony Flerlage – Spring Valley
  • Andrew Goodman – Elbow Lake
  • Tyler Lusignan – Faribault
  • Taylor Hochstein – Hill City
  • Jacqueline Hughes – Longville
  • Leah Kampa – Hutchinson #2
  • Benjamin Karon – Isle
  • Annette Kyllo – Pierz
  • Michael Lerchen – Bloomington
  • Blong Lor – Redwood Falls
  • Tyler Ramaker – LaCrescent
  • Jacob Swedberg – Detroit Lakes
  • Garrett Thomas – Eagan
  • Ashley Whiteoak – Malmo
  • Shane Zavodnik – International Falls #2

There are 155 field stations across the state, each covering about 650 square miles. While this year’s conservation officer class will cut down on the number of vacancies, there still will be 22 field stations without full-time, dedicated coverage. The DNR plans to hold another academy in the spring of 2019.