By Steve Visser
A Georgia ranger has been named top wildlife officer nationwide for being the bane of bear poachers and other sorry excuses for hunters.
The state Department of Natural Resources announced Monday that Ranger First Class David Webb, a regional investigator assigned to the mountain county of Towns, had won the North American Officer of the Year Award from the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association.
Webb went “above and beyond” duty in investigating illegal bear hunting, said Mark McKinnon, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.
“There are a lot of bears that are killed out of season and it is a big problem,” McKinnon said.
Webb participated in a three-year operation targeting illegal bear hunting on U.S. Forest Service lands along the Georgia and North Carolina border. That operation resulted in more than 900 state and federal charges — including 139 state charges against eight defendants in Georgia and 110 state charges against 26 defendants in North Carolina, McKinnon said.
The illegal hunting includes hired guides, hunting clubs and poaching for illegal sale of animal parts, McKinnon said.
The arrests included outright poaching and baiting for bears, as well as killing a protected heron and poaching an alligator out of season.
“It is hard to get tags for alligators,” McKinnon said.