By Molly Kirk
Photos by Courtesy of Senior CPO Beth McGuire
Each month in the Conservation Police Notes from the Field email, we at the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) are going to highlight one of our Conservation Police Officers and find out what the job means to them.
Name: Senior Officer Beth McGuire
Region and County of Assignment: Region 4, Highland County, but I work my entire District to include Augusta and Rockingham Counties.
What do you love about your job as a Conservation Police Officer (CPO) for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR)?
I honestly love almost everything about my job. I love that I get to protect our natural resources every day. The freedom this job has makes it so that it is never routine. I may help stock and patrol a trout stream one day, assist biologists with wildlife complaints another, teach a class the next, participate in Honor Guard training, and walk in on an illegal bait site all in the same week. I truly enjoy all the people I work with, from other CPOs and my supervisors to biologists, wildlife enthusiasts, and other local and state law enforcement.
What inspired you to become a CPO?
Since I was a little girl I always knew I wanted to be a police officer. You know, in first or second grade when they give you the sheet that says: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I circled police officer, lifeguard, firefighter, and model. I became a lifeguard and volunteer firefighter when I was in high school. I “modeled” for my criminal justice professor’s crime scene photography class. So I checked those boxes, but perhaps not exactly the way I envisioned at 6 years old!
In college I decided I wanted to go into law enforcement on the state level. I began researching Virginia State Police (VSP) and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (at the time). Once I got to see all the opportunities one could become involved in as a CPO I was sold. I never even applied for VSP. I was hired as a CPO straight out of college and I consider myself quite blessed for that.
What line of work did you do before joining the Department of Wildlife Resources?
I already covered that I was a lifeguard, later becoming head lifeguard at the community pool in Highland County. I was a lifeguard at the Ferrum College pool and have also been an office assistant at the Ferrum College Police Department, a waitress, and a community advisor. I graduated magna cum laude from Ferrum College with a degree in Criminal Justice.
What wildlife and/or outdoor activities do you participate in on your own time?
I enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, kayaking, riding our horses, hiking, and lately sledding/tubing with my family. They are what makes it all the more worthwhile and special.
What’s been your most memorable moment while working as a CPO?
My most honorable moment as a CPO was when I was awarded the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) State Wildlife Officer of the Year in 2019. My husband and I were able to attend the NWTF state banquet and national convention in Tennessee where I was recognized. It was a true honor to have been given that award and been nominated from my local chapter.
The most memorable moment was when I was on a bear chase season patrol in the National Forest. A bear had retaliated against some dogs, and the hunters were carrying out mutilated dogs. I walked a couple hundred yards into the woods, across a creek, and up a ridge to take my first aid kit to a hunter who had a severely injured dog. I assisted him in wrapping the dog’s wounds and taping his mouth shut.
I had been told that one hunter had gotten either mauled or bitten by the bear during the fight. The bear had crossed the National Forest road and still had four dogs on its tail. The dogs appeared to have stopped or treed about 400 yards from the road up the ridge. I offered to go in with the hunters in case the bear became aggressive again. There were four youth hunters there, including a scared 6-year-old girl who walked up to me, took my hand, and asked me not to leave.
I asked that one of the hunters stay out of the woods with the children or offered to stay at the road myself with them. The hunters asked me to do in after the dogs. I caught two of the four dogs, grabbing one by only the antenna on its tracking collar through the laurel. The hunter that went in with me caught a third dog. The rest of the group joined us in the woods to help with the dogs. The bear had continued up the ridge with the last dog.
I offered to take the dogs and children out so they could continue. The little girl once again took my hand and asked me to take her to the truck. Shivering, she told me she was cold. I took off my outer uniform shirt and put it on her and walked out with a dog on lead in one hand and the little girl holding the other. The girl kept tripping and struggling to get through the woods so I slung her on my back piggy-back style and got her out of the woods.
The fourth dog eventually came off the track and joined the group at the road. All of the hunters were grateful for the extra time and compassion I showed them that morning. I’m sure it’s a moment neither that little girl or I will ever forget.
If you’re interested in a career in law enforcement with DWR, click here: https://dwr.virginia.