As one of three a wildlife conservation officers in Luzerne County, Gerald Kapral has quite a bit of ground to cover — everything west of the Susquehanna River. It can be overwhelming at times, particularly during the first day of deer season when Kapral simply can’t be everywhere at one time.
But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have eyes throughout the district.
“Deputies are vital to a WCO,” Kapral said. “If I’m in Exeter Township and I get a report that someone shot a deer from the road in Fairmount Township, they’d be long gone by the time I got there. Fortunately, I can have my deputy in another area where we know we’re going to have violations.”
While deputies go a long way toward aiding a WCO in covering a large district, they are also equally important when it comes to safety. Kapral said the uncertainty that comes along with each call makes it important that WCOs always have backup. He currently has one deputy for his district and ideally would like four to six.
“There’s been plenty of times I’m glad I had a deputy to back me up,” Kapral said. “When you’re going to a potential violator’s house or making a stop late at night, having backup right there with you is a huge advantage.”
Mark Rutkowski, law enforcement supervisor for the PGC’s northeast region, said he’d like to each WCO have two to three deputies. Each WCO is allowed up to nine.
“The deputies we do have are very dedicated to this,” Rutkowski said. “Most will take off work for the first three days of deer season and also give up their hunting on those days just to work with us. That’s dedication.”