Eagle Lake pilot is Maine Game Warden of the Year

1 year ago

FORT KENT, Maine — Some people show up for work each day. Some people like Game Warden Jeff Spencer show up for work, rescue people and earn the 2022 Maine Game Warden of the Year Award.

Spencer, 57, a helicopter pilot who has served the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the past 25 years, said news of his award was a bit overwhelming, mostly because he loves his job so much. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe I get paid for it,” Spencer said. “We do this every day; we eat it, drink it and breathe it every day.”

He received the award from the Maine Warden Service Friday at a ceremony at the Winslow VFW. Gov. Janet Mills and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso spoke.

Spencer began his warden career in the North Maine Woods in the Estcourt Station district, where he quickly made an impact with numerous cases regarding over-the-limit fish and night hunting. 

He was later promoted to sergeant, and then became a game warden pilot. His search and rescue efforts, as well as assistance in protecting fish and wildlife resources, have earned him praise, said Mark Latti, department communications director, in a statement.

Spencer has conducted several recent successful search and rescue finds from his aircraft, as well as multiple fish and wildlife cases.

Among his notable cases was a search off the Island Pond Road in the North Maine Woods in fall 2020. By late afternoon, after flying for more than 10 hours, Spencer located a lost subject along a brook several miles from his vehicle. 

Most recently, Spencer was among a team of wardens who helped rescue two stranded hunters in the North Maine Woods on Thanksgiving Day.    

He and a group of four other wardens earned an exemplary service nod in 2021 for locating two elderly men who had gotten lost while fishing. Searchers found the men at 2 a.m. suffering from hypothermia and dehydration but safe.

In fall 2020, Spencer searched by air for more than 10 hours off the Island Pond Road in the North Maine Woods, finally locating a lost man along a brook several miles from his vehicle. 

Candidates are nominated by their peers.

“Pilot Spencer is and has always been the quintessential picture of a Maine Game Warden, stepping out from trees in places where the public never expected to be checked. His work as a Warden, K-9 handler and currently as a Pilot has left a lasting impact on the people and resources of Maine,” his nomination stated. 

Ashland Sgt. Mike Joy of Division E in Ashland also earned statewide recognition with the Supervisor of the Year Award. 

Joy, a sergeant in eastern Aroostook since 2018, started with the Maine Warden Service in 199 and served in districts including Kittery, Daaquam, Winter Harbor, Rangeley, Brunswick, Sebago Lake, Sanford, Rip Dam and North Berwick.

Three other Aroostook County wardens were honored.  

The 2022 K9 Conservation Case of the Year Award went to Preston Pomerleau and K9 Gordon of the Portage Lake district for their work in solving an illegally shot moose.  

Game Wardens Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Grand Isle/New Sweden district and Kayle Hamilton of the Eagle Lake district earned Exemplary Service Awards for charging two males with hunting moose during a closed season, hunting moose without a permit, hunting without a valid license, hunting on Sunday, and waste of a wild bird or animal.

For Jeff Spencer, it’s all about making sure every moment of his job and life counts. 

“So much happens in the course of your career over a week or a day,” Spencer said. “We all take this very seriously, what we do, and try to help each other.”  

The latest Game Warden of the Year is also a proud father to two adult children, son Carson Spencer and daughter Cassidy Spencer.