FWC officers protect state’s wildlife
Quality workers are the driving force behind any successful enterprise. Over the next few weeks, the Record will introduce our readers to employees and volunteers who are instrumental to the organizations they serve.
Matthew Stuhr patrols any areas necessary to protect wildlife and promote conservation efforts across Nassau County.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission state law enforcement officer can often be found navigating a boat along the waterways or traveling through parks, back roads and highways. He typically drives locally between 100 and 400 miles a day.
“I like everything about it, you know, my office is my truck and my county,” he said.
Now 28, Stuhr was hired at age 19.
“I love being on the coast and I love being in the woods,” Stuhr said. “Nassau County has both. You just about have all the saltwater you can handle. And you can offshore out there and the sky’s the limit as far as what you can do here.”
As a sworn officer with the FWC, Stuhr’s job is to ensure that fish and game are harvested in permissible numbers and within the proper season. He is also responsible for checking for proper licenses.
“With hunting and fishing, there’s always a bag limit as to what a person can harvest within a day, so with the conservation aspect of it, I’m making sure they have the proper licenses and permits to harvest those resources that are available in Florida,” he said.
Stuhr also checks boaters for safety gear, including, fire extinguishers, lifejackets for each person on board, a whistle or horn and ensuring that children under age 6 wear lifejackets at all times when the boat is underway.
Additional work duties include checking state parks, boat ramps and secluded areas for illegal activities. He also inspects areas where sea turtles or seabirds nest to make sure people don’t disturb their habitats.
These responsibilities may be carried out day or night, rain or shine, on a rotating 8-hour work schedule. He is assigned to Nassau County, but his duties as a law enforcement officer may be carried out anywhere across the state.
“We’re a proactive agency,” Stuhr said. “We get calls, but a majority of our work is proactive law enforcement.”
During the course of his career, Stuhr has investigated various incidents involving illegal deer hunting as well as those who participate in the exotic pet trade industry.
He once investigated a site where an individual kept snakes, fish and reptiles caged inside a dwelling. The individual tended to the creatures, but did not have any furniture onsite, which was an eye-opener for Stuhr.
“It was unusual to me,” he recalled. “I didn’t know that stuff was out there.”
His patrol efforts include monitoring fresh and saltwater waterways for live sharks and manatees and managing the collection of carcasses when necessary.
Each July, Stuhr assists with patrols in the Crystal River during scallop season. The season typically begins in July and ends in September. A fishing license is required for recreational scalloping.
“It’s one of the biggest events in the State of Florida as far as people gathering and stuff,” Stuhr said.
To learn more about scalloping sites, visit myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreation
When he’s not on the clock, the officer enjoys hunting, fishing and the outdoors. Stuhr learns from the community, taking tips on how to best hunt and fish as they share insight.
“It’s the different character of people you meet and the different methods of hunting and fishing that they have,” that is another exciting aspect of his workday.
Stuhr said working with the FWC allows people who already participate in sporting activities an opportunity to stay in their environment. But it also provides opportunities for men and women to learn those skills if they’re new to the sporting life.
To learn more about the job requirements at FWC, visit myfwc.com/get-involved/employment/law-enforcement.