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New game warden to patrol Nobles, Rock counties

DNR Conservation Officer Andrew Dirks began his new duties in Nobles and Rock counties last Wednesday. He will be enforcing hunting, fishing, boating and ATV regulations. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — After going without a full-time game warden dedicated to patrolling Nobles County in recent years, the position has been refilled by a Murray County native.

Andrew Dirks officially began in his new post last Wednesday. He will oversee enforcement of hunting, fishing, boating and ATV rules and regulations — among other duties — for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in both Nobles and Rock counties.

A native of Lake Wilson, Dirks was a conservation officer in Redwood and a portion of Yellow Medicine counties for nearly two years before moving to Luverne. Prior to that, he spent a year and a half as a law enforcement officer in Tracy.

An outdoors enthusiast — he grew up hunting and fishing — Dirks said his interest in conservation enforcement stems from seeing the work his best friend’s uncle did as a game warden in northern Minnesota. The track to his career, however, took a little longer than most.

Dirks entered the Marine Corps after graduation and, because law enforcement was his primary interest, he became an MP and was deployed to Iraq in 2009.

When he returned, Dirks spent a year at Central Lakes Community College in Brainerd studying natural resources. He then entered the law enforcement program at Minnesota West in Worthington, graduating in 2013.

It was his wife’s job that brought him back to the Worthington area to work.

“(Lacey) got a job offer in Sioux Falls that she couldn’t turn down, so that’s why we moved to Luverne,” Dirks said. “It actually gets us closer to home — she grew up by Hadley.”

Though Dirks said his duties won’t change from the work he did in Redwood County, he will have more a populated area to serve now — and one with lakes, not just rivers.

“My primary enforcement duties are game and fish regulations,” he said. “We do ATV, snowmobile and boating enforcement, wetlands and anything natural resources- or recreational vehicle-related.”

The wetlands work pertains to areas protected by the Wetlands Conservation Act. Dirks said illegal activities pertain to tiling through and draining wetlands or filling in public waters.

“I dealt with tiling through wetlands and draining them in Redwood County,” he said.

He will also do invasive species enforcement and lead safety training programs such as firearms, snowmobile and ATV safety classes.

Though in his position for just a few days, Dirks said there are a lot of people who are excited to have someone local again for DNR enforcement. And, he’s excited to get to know the public and travel his new territory.

“I grew up not too far from here so the area isn’t that unfamiliar to me,” he said, noting that his grandfather, Lawrence Dirks, was a long-time auctioneer in the region.

Dirks said his favorite part about being a conservation officer is getting to work outside.

“Granted, there’s always paperwork to do, but for the vast majority of the time we’re out … where the users are,” Dirks said. “The job is always changing with the season. Now it’s hunting-related stuff and about the time you get bored with that, you’re switching into snowmobile and ice fishing, and then spring fishing and boating.

“The job is always changing — you’re not doing the same thing day in and day out,” he added.

Dirks asks the public to be aware that he is now out patrolling and will respond to any conservation enforcement issues.

“If anyone has questions or needs assistance, don’t hesitate to call,” he said. “The public are my eyes out there. Without their assistance, it’s a lot harder for me to do my job.”

Calls for DNR enforcement related issues go through the central hub (1-888-646-6367) and will be relayed to Dirks from there.

To report violations, call Turn In Poachers (TIP) at 1-800-652-9093.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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