Badges, Bears, and Eagles, an Action-Packed Memoir by California Fish and Game Warden Steven T. Callan

badgesBadges, Bears, and Eagles: The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden ($13.95, 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-158-3), by Steven T. Callan, is a fascinating and often humorous collection of stories from Callan’s eventful and unusually successful career as a California fish and game warden.

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“This engrossing memoir by debut author Callan lets readers in on highlights of his 30-year career as a California wildlife officer. With a healthy dose of bravado, he always gets his perps, though he credits his fellow officers, like long-time partner Dave Szody, and the roles they’ve played in cases brought against poachers and other law-breakers. He recalls stories from back into the 1970’s, his memory matched by a knack for pacing and recognition of how much information readers need to understand the dynamics of the cases. From beer-swilling poacher flunkies to ‘entrepreneurs’ dealing in black bear gall bladder for use in Chinese medicine, Callan and his partner sent a lot of wild characters to jail. The vignettes are jaw-dropping, funny, tragic, enraging, exciting, and hopeful—sometimes all at once. An avid outdoorsman with respect for the land and its inhabitants, Callan shares some of the ecological and social history of each California region he’s worked; while those without knowledge of hunting will soon learn the intricacies of California’s byzantine regulations. Never wavering from his ideals, Callan demonstrates an enviable love of his life’s work and has plenty of adventure stories to share.”

Publishers Weekly

owac 2014 award_medallion.eps (3)The Outdoor Writers Association of California awarded Steven T. Callan 1st Place in the Best Outdoor Magazine Column category for “A Whale of a Tale.”

“Exceptionally well-written …. The writing style is almost flawless, and reading this gem is pure effortless joy ….”

—Gerry Lister, International Game Warden magazine

“A thrilling ride into the heart of bad guy country. Which is pretty much anywhere in the state, any place that people can abuse wildlife and habitats for a profit …. The author has reconstructed his and other cases from memory, interviews and court documents. The result is a series of suspenseful, well-written procedurals in which good triumphs, but not without a lot of foot work and tense dealings with well armed scofflaws …. It’s compelling reading about true public service.”
—Dan Barnett, Chico Enterprise-Record

“Steve Callan has written an honest and compelling memoir of his career as a warden for the California Department of Fish & Game. Game wardens usually work alone, rarely with backup, and often must deal with men carrying loaded firearms. It’s not a calling for the faint of heart, but one requiring high intelligence, tact, and insight into human nature. Californians are fortunate to have wardens of Callan’s distinguished character protecting their wildlife.”
—Boyd Gibbons, former Director of the California Department of Fish & Game, retired President of The Johnson Foundation and former U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Interior

“Most people do not think of a game warden as a detective. In Badges, Bears, and Eagles, Steve Callan—Californian, detective, environmentalist, wildlife protection officer, and outdoorsman—takes the reader on a thrilling adventure, providing an inside look at what a dedicated game warden truly does.”
—Randal Hendricks, Sports Agent, Attorney, and award-winning author of Inside the Strike Zone

“Always alone, with backup (if any) an hour and a half away, the game warden is usually dealing with people carrying guns. This book is a genuine chronicle of the very unusual and exciting life of a California Game warden. Steve Callan always managed to bring me the most unusual cases any prosecutor would ever see.”
—Larry Allen, District Attorney, Sierra County, CA, and former Shasta County deputy DA and Environmental Prosecutor

“Callan is John Grisham for the Outdoorsman. Conservationists will applaud his sometimes ‘unique’ efforts to protect our natural resources from those who would abuse them. Whoever knew there was so much intrigue in Fish and Game cases?”
—McGregor Scott, former Shasta County District Attorney and former United States Attorney-Sacramento

“Callan’s chronicle of the life of a California Fish and game warden stands out because in addition to the typical illegal hunting and fishing cases, he provides the reader with real life examples of wardens protecting wildlife habitat and conducting exhaustive undercover operations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.”
—Donald Koch, retired Director of the California Department of Fish and Game

Over his thirty-year career as a wildlife protection officer for the California Department of Fish and Game, Steve Callan and his longtime working partners conducted some of the most fascinating, complex and highly successful wildlife investigations in California history. Along the way, Callan collected a wealth of true stories—action-packed, suspenseful, and often humorous.

In Badges, Bears and Eagles, Steve provides a vivid first-person account of his adventures. The author and his colleagues outsmart game hogs, thwart fish thieves, and foil outlaws with names like “Squeaky.” Steve is even stalked by African lions and mauled by a five-hundred pound Bengal tiger. One of the most important cases of his career begins with a slain bald eagle dropped on the doorstep of the Fish and Game office, along with a note threatening the life of a fellow warden. A decade later, Callan and Szody conduct the investigation of their lives, uncovering a statewide criminal conspiracy to kill California black bears for their valuable gall bladders.

It’s not all about catching bad guys—in “Saving Lake Mathews,” Steve chronicles how he helped save a beloved wildlife sanctuary from developers.

Says Callan, “My career with California Fish and Game could be described as one big adventure. I investigated every form of wildlife outlaw: deer poachers, elk poachers, bighorn sheep poachers, eagle killers, game hogs, salmon snaggers, fish thieves, reptile collectors, exotic animal smugglers and people who slaughtered bears for their gall bladders. Many of those cases became fascinating stories that I knew one day would have to be captured on paper. Three years ago I told myself I had waited long enough, and started writing.”

Steven T. Callan was born in San Diego, California. With an insatiable interest in wildlife, particularly waterfowl, he never missed an opportunity to ride along on patrol with his father, a California Fish and Game warden. Steve graduated from California State University, Chico, in 1970 and continued with graduate work at California State University, Sacramento. Hired by the California Department of Fish and Game in 1974, he spent thirty years as a warden/patrol lieutenant, starting his career near the Colorado River, moving on to Riverside/San Bernardino, and finally ending up in Shasta County (Redding). Steve and his wife, Kathleen, support many  environmental causes. Click here to find Steven online.

Read on for an excerpt:

Most people didn’t like the idea of big cats moving into their neighborhoods, so we often received calls. An anonymous tip led Warden John Slaughter and me into the strange world of Whitley Milton. According to our source, Milton had recently acquired a leopard and kept it at his new house in Perris. The house was way out at the end of a gravel road.

As we pulled up in front of the house, Warden Slaughter commented that it looked like some contractor had just slapped the thing together, graded a ten-foot path around it and left it sitting out in the weeds.

Although no cars were present, Slaughter and I decided to knock. The doorbell didn’t work so Slaughter tapped lightly on the picture window next to the front door. Sheets covered all of the windows; fortunately the sheet covering the front picture window had fallen partially down. Warden Slaughter peered inside and noticed that the living room was completely devoid of furniture. The floor seemed to be made of dark-colored tile.

As Warden Slaughter was about to tap on the window a second time, a five-foot monitor lizard shot across the living room floor and down the hall. The tile floor was so slippery that the giant reptile had spun out.

“Did you see that?” asked Slaughter.

I laughed. “Unbelievable!” I said. “How would you like to clean that house?”

We left and returned several times over the next few days before finally finding Milton at home. A fortyish dark-skinned man wearing a pink Hawaiian shirt answered the door.

“We are with the Department of Fish and Game,” said Warden Slaughter. “Are you Whitley Milton?”

“Yes, I am,” answered Milton, a puzzled look on his face.

“Would you mind if we come in and talk with you for a few minutes?” asked Slaughter.

Neither of us really wanted to go inside the house, imagining what it might smell like, but we figured it would provide us with an opportunity to look around. Milton asked us to wait a minute while he put his lizard in another room. He finally led us into a dimly lit den, furnished with a couch and a few chairs. A large bird cage containing a scarlet macaw hung at one end of the room.

“That’s a beautiful bird,” said Slaughter, hoping to gain Milton’s confidence with a little friendly chit chat.

“Oh, thank you,” said Milton. “That’s Reggie; I’ve had him for over twenty years. Please sit down. Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?”

Slaughter and I politely declined the drink offer. We sat down on the couch and began asking general questions about the monitor lizard. During the conversation, a jet black house cat was playing with one of my boot laces. “We received a report that you recently acquired a leopard, Mr. Milton.” I tried to pull my foot away, but the cat was quite insistent. “Can you tell us about that?”

“I had a leopard for a few days,” Milton said, “but I shipped it back east. I wanted to get a permit and have a cage built.”

Before either Slaughter or I could respond, Milton began asking a series of hypothetical questions, each one beginning with, “Answer me this, Lieutenant Callan.” Animal Welfare regulations required a certain amount of interpretation by the officers enforcing them. It became obvious that Milton was trying to pin me into a corner on requirements for the possession of big cats. I tried to interpret the regulations fairly and as they were intended, but deep down I deplored the idea of private individuals keeping these magnificent wild animals in backyard cages.

Milton droned on for five or ten more minutes before I noticed something unusual about his kitty—its extremely large paws. The determined little feline was still busy chewing on my right boot.

“Wait a minute!” I said, interrupting Milton in the middle of a sentence. “I think we’ve found our leopard.” John and I had been looking for a typical yellow and black animal, not one in the melanistic black phase. We hadn’t paid much attention to the playful little kitten on the floor. Upon closer examination, we realized that this little black kitty with the oversized paws was actually a very young black leopard cub.

Milton had purposely kept the shades closed, so there was very little light in the room. I picked up the cat and carried it to the window. When I pulled the shades back, the light poured in and exposed the characteristic leopard spots through the animal’s shiny black fur. We might have been concerned about Milton lying to us, but John and I were a little embarrassed about not recognizing the leopard in the first place.

Charges were filed against Milton for unlawful possession and importation of a prohibited species. No zoos or legitimate facilities were willing to take the leopard so it was eventually shipped back east to its original owner.

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