When Len Butler started his career as a fish and wildlife officer in Alberta 38 years ago, he was given an unmarked truck with a portable emergency light, a pair of boots, a uniform and ticket book, then told to do compliance checks on people hunting and fishing.
Butler was aware he would mainly be working on his own, patrolling large areas off the beaten path and dealing with people who would rather be left alone. He knew what he was getting himself into when he signed up for the job but he could not help but feel nervous.
“You have to be confident and you have to know your skills quite well. That really hasn’t changed as long as I’ve been doing this job,” said Butler, who started his career in Strathmore and eventually wound up in the isolated northern Alberta community of Fort Chipewyan. “I always wanted to get that type of posting. Some of those places that are isolated and you’re working on your own really test you. Your first line of defense is good speaking abilities to get yourself out of a lot of tight situations.”
In 1991, Butler headed west to join the B.C. Conservation Officer Service. He now works out of Williams Lake as an inspector for the Thompson-Cariboo region, overseeing the operations of three zones. Known for his strong work ethic and extensive knowledge, Butler has worked with the Special Investigations Unit and is one of the three leads for the Predator Attack Team, which responds to human-wildlife encounters and attacks.
Preventing human-wildlife conflicts is something Butler is passionate about after dealing with numerous incidents throughout his career. On one occasion, a sow grizzly and three cubs decided to make the town of Nelson their home, leading Butler on a nearly month-long chase as the animals feasted on garbage and unpicked fruit. Eventually Butler figured out a pattern and the four bears were captured and released back into the wild.
One of Butler’s proudest accomplishments is putting together the agency’s Defensive Tactics Program in 2007 for training new recruits and existing conservation officers. Focusing on arrest and control tactics for officer safety, the Defensive Tactics Program has become one of the best training programs in Canada and among the many accomplishments in a career that still feels like an adventure every time Butler steps out into the field.
“I have the same excitement as when I was a young officer and I think that means something in this career,” said Butler, who recently returned from a 10-day patrol from Smithers to Atlin where he conducted compliance checks on hunters. “Every day can be different and you make decisions that are going to impact the public, protect fish and wildlife.”
Butler is the 26th recipient of the Outstanding Officer of the Year Award. Since 1992, the designation has been awarded annually to a conservation officer for going above and beyond the call of duty and exemplifying the values of the Conservation Officer Service: integrity, public service and protection of the environment.
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said, “My sincere congratulations to Len Butler on being recognized for his outstanding work ethic, extensive knowledge and dedication toward protecting our natural resources and preventing human-wildlife conflicts. He has focused both on protecting animals as well as people. Conservation officers often face a number of challenges in the field, so it’s important we have officers like Len to provide solid leadership and inspiration.”
Doug Forsdick, chief conservation officer, B.C. Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) commented, “Len Butler is a model conservation officer. In every facet of his career and personal life, he sets an example for other officers. Len has a strong work ethic, a terrific knowledge of the job, terrific use of discretion and truly cares about people. Len has touched many officers, trained, mentored and set them on a path for success. He has truly left a mark on the BCCOS.”
To learn more about the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/natural-resource-law-enforcement/conservation-officer-service