Make a rescue, tow a manatee. You never know.

August 2011 News

Andy Maltais can't believe he gets paid to be on a boat all day.

On a hot Thursday morning, the officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission unloads his faded red cooler and walks to the end of the dock at the Shalimar Yacht Club. He checks out his 26-foot Angler boat and watches as it slowly lowers into the water.

"You never know what you could be doing on any given day," Maltais says. "I could need to make a rescue, tow a manatee. You never know."

Maltais is one of eight officers who patrol the water and land in Okaloosa County. FWC officers have jurisdiction on water, land and on federal grounds - rare for lawmen.

Maltais carries the usual accessories such as a gun and handcuffs, but he also has to prepare for unusual cases. He keeps an alligator pole, welder's gloves and pull lines to help vehicles stuck in the mud.

"This is a little bit different type of law enforcement," Maltais says as he grabs his life jacket and cranks the boat's engine. "I get anything from bear calls to someone complaining about boaters feeding dolphins."

Unlike most lawmen, FWC officers are not call-driven. Maltais takes his boat out and hits the usual spots: the Cinco Bayou docks, Crab Island and some derelict vessels near Spectre Island in Santa Rosa Sound.

When he's not on the water, Maltais' duties include checking for hunting violations and assisting with wildlife calls.

He joined the FWC shortly after he retired from the Navy. One day he saw a marine patrol officer on his boat and it sparked his curiosity.

"I thought, `That would be an interesting job,' " Maltais says as he waves to a passing boat. "Here I am, seven years later.

"The biggest part of this job is building relationships," he says. "I talk with the folks working on the docks and going out on the water, so now I have eyes and ears everywhere, even when I'm not on duty."


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