Fruita-based wildlife officer has cracked some key poaching cases
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — District Wildlife Manager Paul Creeden of Fruita, whose work on law enforcement cases has won him acclaim from prosecutors, was selected by fellow officers as the 2010 John D. Hart Wildlife Officer of the Year.
Creeden, a 25-year veteran of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, was presented with the award on March 1 at the Division’s annual law enforcement in-service training in Colorado Springs.
“I serve with phenomenal officers,” said Creeden. “Just to be nominated is a great honor and I am very humbled and proud to have been selected by my peers to win the award.”
The John D. Hart award was named after the legendary Division wildlife officer who retired as Assistant Director in 1959. Hart epitomized the agency’s commitment to preserving and enhancing Colorado’s wildlife and the aggressive pursuit of poachers and other wildlife violators. The award recognizes outstanding service inspired by these ideals.
Creeden’s long career as a wildlife officers has been distinguished by his investigative work that is legendary within the Division of Wildlife. he led one multi-agency investigation that resulted in the arrest and conviction of four individuals involved with extensive poaching of deer and elk in Colorado and Utah that decimated big game populations.
Working with the assistance of the State of Utah and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Creeden was instrumental in developing key information that allowed undercover agents to infiltrate the ring. During the investigation, agents learned from the poachers that their goal was to avoid Creeden at all costs.
Another investigation led by Creeden uncovered one of the most egregious cases of organized poaching that wildlife officers and prosecutors had seen in over 20 years, which severely impacted mountain lion, bear and bobcat populations in Colorado and Utah.
“Paul is the consummate game warden,” said CDOW northwest regional manager Ron Velarde. “He’s a leader who is equally at home in the field, the classroom or the conference room.”
Creeden’s passion for wildlife runs in the family. His grandfather spent 40 years as a game warden for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Creeden earned his Bachelor of Science degree in fishery and wildlife biology at Michigan State before moving to Colorado in 1979 to pursue his Master’s degree in big game ecology from Colorado State University.
His study of a herd of desert bighorn sheep southwest of Grand Junction gave him specific knowledge of the local terrain and a desert bighorn herd that he later tapped to help the Division improve hunting opportunities in this area.
“Paul has always been a great game warden, but his accomplishments and work in the last few years have been truly extraordinary,” assistant northwest regional manager Dean Riggs said.
Other nominees included officer Darren Chacon and officer Josh Dilley also from the Northwest Region, and officer Larry Conger from the Northeast region. Each officer was recognized and nominated by their peers for their dedication, hard work and commitment to Colorado’s wildlife.
Also during the in-service training, District Wildlife Manager Michal Blanck was given a Lifesaving Award by the Colorado Wildlife Employees Protective Association. Blanck, who covers the Collbran district in the Northwest region, received the medal for saving the life of a woman who was suffering from an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
Blanck put the woman and a companion in his truck and worked hard to keep her awake while he rushed her toward medical help. Blanck said he kept his cool during the trip when the woman’s friend mentioned several times that “they were losing her.” She was eventually airlifted to St. Mary’s hospital in Grand Junction and has since fully recovered.
Blanck said he was humbled and even a little embarrassed by the award. “I just did what any other officer would do,” he said. “I’m glad that I was at the right place at the right time and was able to get her medical help.”
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