DEDICATED DUO California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office Laura Decker is pictured with her K9 partner, Maverick. Contributed photo
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Santa Clara County Wildlife Officer Laura Decker was named 2023 Wildlife Officer of the Year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this week.

Decker, who is currently based in the CDFW Gilroy office, began her career with CDFW in 2018. In her short time on patrol, Decker became known as “an exceptionally dedicated officer, investigator and a true asset to CDFW,” says a press release from the department. Decker had a busy year in 2023, conducting investigations related to inland fishing, ocean fishing, hunting, abalone, Dungeness crab, unlawful streambed alterations and penal code violations to name a few. 

Although Decker is assigned to the Gilroy position, her patrol duties have taken her to the areas along the California coast to assist other wildlife officers whenever needed, says the press release.

“It is my pleasure to recognize the outstanding efforts of Wildlife Officer Laura Decker as our Wildlife Officer of the Year,” said Nathaniel Arnold, Acting Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Her work accomplishments are truly impressive, and the citizens of California are lucky to have her protecting California’s diverse natural resources.”

Decker is a K-9 handler, with her loyal partner Maverick. Together they have responded to many requests for assistance calls from partnering law enforcement agencies, including a search for a man suspected of stabbing another at a party, a search for a firearm used in a drive-by shooting that injured a six-year-old, and other assists to agencies in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties, says the press release.

Decker was the lead for planning Dungeness crab poaching details in response to an uptick in reports of violations in San Mateo County, the release continues. Local wildlife officers patrolled the San Mateo coast for the unlawful take of Dungeness crab under Decker’s lead for weeks. 

These patrols resulted in 225 citations for unlawful possession of Dungeness crab (727 crabs), unlawful take of rock crab (89 crabs), take of undersized Dungeness crab, several county code violations, four DUIs and one arrest.

“Decker is especially valued as a trainer,” adds the CDFW’s press release. “She is an arrest/control instructor and is skillful in her demonstrations and teaching methods. She became a first aid/CPR instructor, then built upon that foundation and attended the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s Tactical Medicine Instructor Course. 

“Decker is an expert at treating wounds in the field and uses this experience to train other officers and the public to survive an injury. Her training scenarios are often designed to mimic conditions a wildlife officer faces patrolling a remote location, hours away from help. Finally, Wildlife Officer Decker is a Field Training Officer, training new wildlife officers to prepare them for their career in wildlife law enforcement.” 

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