Wyoming Wildlife -

Keep the Conversation Going




Last year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department reached hundreds of thousands of people through communication and outreach efforts.


1/1/2024 12:05:05 AM

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department knows it is essential for the public to be informed about what’s happening with the state’s wildlife, and how the department is fulfilling its mission of conserving wildlife, serving people. Game and Fish personnel work hard to communicate effectively with the public, engage people of all ages and find creative ways to get kids and adults interested in the great outdoors.

“Communication and education go hand in hand in conservation. Working with the public to understand, engage and trust our work is imperative,” said Nish Goicolea, Game and Fish communications and education chief. “We spend significant time sharing our field personnel’s work and expertise. We want the public to be included, well-informed and have opportunities to interact with us through a wide variety of activities and mediums and at all ages. Whether providing information, skills acquisition or community engagement — we want people involved. ”

Last year, Game and Fish’s Communications and Education Division reached hundreds of thousands of people across Wyoming and the country with various programs. Whether bringing new tools to the classroom, showing people new skills, sharing information or attending community events, Game and Fish strives to serve the public and keep everyone informed about what's happening. Here are some highlights of 2023’s communication and education efforts. 

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Parker Everhart, conservation education coordinator, teaches a group of kids the proper way to hold a bow at the Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp near Dubois. (Photo by Chris Martin/WGFD) 

EDUCATION AND EVENTS

Game and Fish’s commitment to education and outreach in 2023 continued to serve a pivotal role in inspiring the next generation of hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts with an emphasis on understanding natural places, wildlife and their management.

Involvement in prominent events across the state served as a platform to interact with and educate thousands of people of all ages. Events included Mule Deer Days in Rock Springs in partnership with Muley Fanatics, a University of Wyoming football game and Kids Education Day women’s basketball game in Laramie, Elk Fest in Jackson with Jackson Hole Friends of Scouting, Wyoming Outdoor Weekend in Lander with the Lander Economic Development Association, Medicine Lodge 

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Members of the Game and Fish communications and education team donned beaver and moose attire at the University of Wyoming Women's Basketball Education Day in November. The beaver and moose led a competition during halftime. (Photo by Emalee Smith/WGFD)

Outdoor Day in partnership with State Parks near Hyattville, the Wyoming Outdoor Hall of Fame and Landowner of the Year ceremonies, assisting the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt and free fishing day events across the state including the Maury Brown Kids Fishing Day outside Cheyenne.

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Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik speaks at the Conservation in the Classroom press conference in September in Casper to introduce this new program in Wyoming schools. (Photo by Patrick Owen/WGFD)

A milestone was the launch of the Conservation Education in Schools initiative. This collaborative initiative provides schools across the state with resources to implement Trout in the Classroom in partnership with Trout Unlimited, the National Archery in the Schools Program, Conservation Crates curriculum and Hunter Education. Aligning with Wyoming education standards ensures these programs provide hands-on learning experiences and contribute to the state’s broader educational goals in and out of schools.

The dedication of Game and Fish employees to furthering conservation education across the state resulted in 298 education programs in 2023, which interacted with more than 21,000 individuals.

HUNTER EDUCATION

This is a required certification for hunting with a firearm in Wyoming for people born on or after Jan. 1, 1966. The course and curric- ulum train individuals to be safe, responsible and ethical hunters. The courses are taught by a network of dedicated volunteers and Game and Fish staff. Wyoming has a total of 324 hunter education instructors, 213 of which are volunteers.

“Volunteer hunter education instructors make up the second-largest volunteer force in the nation,” said Katie Simpson, Game and Fish hunter education coordinator. “In a time when nationwide volunteer rates are declining, I am excited to see we still have community members who will step up and give more of themselves, but that is just the Wyoming way.”

Since hunter education was mandated in Wyoming, hunting-related deaths or injuries dropped from 20-30 per year in the 1970s and 1980s to less than five reported annually.

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Katie Simpson, hunter education coordinator, teaches a participant how to properly use a compound bow at the Hunter Education Camp at Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp. (Photo by Emalee Smith/WGFD)

Last year, Game and Fish certified about 3,500 individuals in hunter education and implemented a new volunteer instructor training structure. Applicants who met the necessary qualifications attended a two-and-a-half-day training workshop to become certified as hunter education instructors. In addition to hunter education workshops, hunter education classes continued across the state.

BECOMING AN OUTDOORS-WOMAN

In the early 1990s, Dr. Christine Thomas had a vision to create hands-on workshops for adult women focused on building a supportive environment conducive to learning, building friendships and creating positive experiences in the outdoors. She created the national Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program. In 1996, Game and Fish employee Helen (McCracken) Roylance, a Wyoming Outdoor Hall of Fame inductee in 2022, brought the program to Wyoming. In the 27 years of Wyoming BOW, more than 1,000 women have participated and learned outdoor skills.

Game and Fish hosted two traditional BOW workshops in 2023, which focused on entry-level classes. In total, 87 participants from across Wyoming participated in the workshops. The two workshops were held at Game and Fish’s Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp outside Dubois. Participants made selections from 21 courses and activities including outdoor survival, fly-fishing, archery, wildlife viewing and backyard habitat.

“BOW instructors are the backbone of the program,” Poole said. “They are a dedicated group of volunteers and outdoor recreation professionals focused on sharing their passions with adult learners. The BOW community is thriving in Wyoming and the workshops will continue to expand to allow more opportunities for Wyoming women to get outside.”

CAMPS
Game and Fish hosts several different types of summer camps at the Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp near Dubois each year. Camp staff held seven camps last year including four family camps, two youth camps and one educator camp. A total of 130 participants attended these camps in 2023.
Camps included Adventure Camp which introduces families to outdoor activities, Fishing Camp which teaches families to fly-fish and spin-fish and Hunter Education Camp which provides families with skills to start their hunting journeys.

The youth camps expose students aged 14-16 to various careers within the department through hands-on presentations. In 2023, 30 participants attended youth camps and 93 percent of those participants said they were interested in a career with Game and Fish.

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Sarah Doyle, seasonal conservation educator, holds up a badger pelt during a girls camp at Whiskey Mountain Conservation Camp. (Photo by Stephanie Estell/WGFD)

Last year was the debut of the department’s Assistant Conservation Educator program. This allows youth camp participants from previous years who showed leadership potential and excitement for conservation to come back and volunteer in a leadership role. In 2023, three ACEs provided 274 volunteer hours at youth and family camps. 

VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS

The visual communications team plays a crucial role in informing and connecting with the community about the state’s wildlife and conservation efforts through audio, video, graphic design and social media.

Screenshot-2024-01-03-at-8-41-42-AM.pngPatrick Owen, visual information specialist, documents fish stocking near Pole Mountain in June. Owen also is the creative director for Wyoming Wildlife magazine. (Photo by Tracie Binkerd/WGFD)

In terms of social media outreach, Game and Fish has engaged millions of people on its social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and X — formerly known as Twitter. The social media platforms include compelling content that showcase Wyoming’s abundant wildlife and educates people about the conservation work conducted by Game and Fish.

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Chris Martin, visual communications supervisor, and Emalee Smith, marketing and media specialist, set up trail cameras in the Snowy Range to capture footage of wildlife in their natural habitat. (Photo by Patrick Owen/WGFD)

Web content management ensures Game and Fish’s online presence remains informative and up-to-date, facilitating easy access to vital resources for hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts.

While social media and web content is the norm in providing information in this day and age, Game and Fish also produces and shares a lot of information in more conventional methods.

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Ray Hageman, senior multi-media specialist, shoots video footage for a new piece about mule deer in the Wyoming Range in October. Hageman also produces and hosts the “Get Outside!” podcast. (Photo by Patrick Owen/WGFD)

“When people ask me what it is I do, I usually begin with: ‘I have one of the best jobs in the world,’ ” said Ray Hageman, Game and Fish senior multi-media specialist.

Hageman’s job for the last 24 years is to explain department programs, initiatives and projects through the use of broadcast media. He is known as the “voice of Game and Fish” and produces a weekly television news piece that airs on two Wyoming television stations, radio programs that air on various Wyoming radio stations and a podcast called “Get Outside!” for people who enjoy recreating outdoors.

Hageman also creates in-house video productions to promote department efforts. He travels the state and films field projects including mule deer captures, fish population estimates and habitat work.

“It’s important to inform and educate the public about wildlife management concepts because Wyoming residents place a high value on its wild resources,” Hageman said. “Whether it’s giving people a look at how Game and Fish collects data on Wyoming’s sensitive species, how we monitor mule deer populations, what we do to ensure Wyoming’s fisheries stay productive for anglers or the challenges Wyoming’s wildlife face, it’s important the public sees how sportsman dollars are used to conserve our wildlife.”

MEDIA RELATIONS TEAM

This group regularly develops and disseminates accurate information that promotes Game and Fish and informs the public through mass media. This includes internally produced media, such as news releases, newsletters and direct emails to specific stakeholder groups, and participation in external media including newspapers, television and radio stations.

The media team is vital in ensuring information distributed to the public is timely and factual. It serves as the bridge between the public and experts within Game and Fish, amplifying the department’s messages and providing accessible platforms for information.

In 2023, the media team collectively sent more than 14 million emails, including newsletters, draw results and licensing notifications. They published more than 250 news releases statewide and regionally. Media personnel participated in or coordinated hundreds of interviews with external media sources. National media outlets including The Washington Post, Fox News, MSN and The New York Times have featured pieces written by media team staff and interviews from Game and Fish employees, stretching the reach of the department to tens of millions of people across the country and the world.

REGIONAL INFORMATION AND EDUCATION SPECIALISTS

Regional information and education specialists are based at Game and Fish offices around the state. They work in conjunction with the statewide media and education teams to coordinate information dispersal, education and outreach across Wyoming. These communication experts disseminate information through various regional media platforms to inform the public of key Game and Fish messages and regional projects. The specialists develop and execute educational outreach programs with communities, schools, partner agencies and nongovernmental organizations. They also contribute to Game and Fish communication efforts in other ways including participation in local events, teaching hunter education, documenting fieldwork, writing for Wyoming Wildlife magazine and more.

Screenshot-2024-01-03-at-8-42-33-AM.pngLaramie Region Information and Education Specialist Caroline Rosinski removes blinders from a pheasant reared at the Downar Bird Farm before it is released in the field. (Photo by Mark Dexter/WGFD)

Given their close working relationships with regional staff, the specialists collaborate with field personnel and connect them with statewide staff and the public. This team’s geographically dispersed working locations and diverse backgrounds help each of them provide unique perspectives on local and statewide issues. With years of experience working and living in their regions, they are able to under- stand and appreciate regional complexities and challenges and therefore are able to best serve their local communities while being a conduit to Game and Fish and stakeholders statewide. 

Screenshot-2024-01-03-at-8-43-25-AM.pngGreen River Regional Information and Education Specialist Regina Dickson teaches youth about bats at an Otono y Outdoors event hosted in partnership with Latino Outdoors, Wyoming State Parks and Equality State Policy Center. (Photo by Cassie Castillo/Latino Outdoors)

MAGAZINE

Wyoming Wildlife has been produced for 87 years. If 2023 proved anything, it was that the magazine is truly a team effort among Game and Fish employees with multiple peo- ple from the department contributing articles and photos.

Subscribers from all 50 states and 16 countries enjoy the magazine for its stunning photos and informative articles. Those images are captured by freelance photographers and Game and Fish employees. Last year, 45 employee contributed photos to the magazine, including a staff-generated photo essay in June. Plans are underway for another staff photo essay this year.

Screenshot-2024-01-03-at-8-44-06-AM.pngTracie Binkerd, editor of Wyoming Wildlife magazine, answers questions about the magazine at Mule Deer Days in Rock Springs in March. (Photo by Emalee Smith/WGFD)

Two of the magazine’s most popular issues — the February photo contest and November calendar — continued to draw huge interest from participants. The Calendar Photo Contest drew 377 participants who submitted 1,585 photos — 74 more participants and 251 more photos than the previous year’s contest. The Photo Contest had 524 people enter 3,023 photos. The magazine ran 103 of those photos in the February 2023 issue.

Another highlight in 2023 was the September magazine — a special mule deer issue that covered numerous topics about one of Wyoming’s iconic wildlife species. The special magazine included a fold-out map with information on the movements of mule deer from five of the state’s mule deer herds and highlighted a five-year, groundbreaking research project.

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