Michigan -(Ammoland.com)- A 12-year veteran of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was named the 2014 Shikar-Safari Wildlife Officer of the Year at a recent meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.
Conservation officer Ken Kovach of St. Clair County accepted the award from representatives of the Shikar-Safari Club International, which was founded in 1952 by an international group of hunters interested in exchanging ideas about the sport. Each year the club sponsors an award for the wildlife officer of the year in all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces, and the territories of both nations.
“Officer Kovach has a consistent track record of being excellent in the field of big game enforcement, and has helped the Law Enforcement Division in various capacities throughout his career,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler. “From being a drive and survival tactics instructor for recruits and officers to working with various law enforcement agencies in his county and region, Officer Kovach is a great asset to the DNR.”
Kovach earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University, and worked for other law enforcement agencies before coming to the DNR in 2002 as a conservation officer. He has worked in three counties – Oakland, Lapeer and, most recently, St. Clair. He also has worked as an undercover detective in the DNR Wildlife Resource Protection Unit.
He has worked as a drive instructor for the past seven years, allowing him to instruct a core group of conservation officers as well as three Michigan State Police recruit schools. “Officer Kovach has helped build a solid relationship between our division and the state police through his work at the training academy,” said Hagler.
Kovach also has served as a survival tactics instructor for the past 10 years for the DNR, actively teaching his fellow officers the proper techniques that will help them survive in a hand-to-hand confrontation. Kovach also has extensive training in active shooter response and has organized trainings for his area. He also has helped mentor new officers coming out of the DNR training academy.
Some of the recent examples of Kovach’s work that Shikar-Safari pointed to when giving him the award were successfully gaining restitution in one year for 15 different illegally killed/taken deer, which totaled more than $15,000; and having more than 150 major restitution cases prosecuted, including cases involving white-tailed deer, lake sturgeon, moose, elk, wolf and turkey.
Shikar-Safari representatives also cited another case coordinated by Kovach, a six-month investigation with the State of Montana Conservation Law Division that recovered more than $10,000 in restitution. Kovach also took the lead on a case involving an illegally taken moose in Saskatchewan. Due to his investigative skills, Kovach was able to recover an illegally taken moose and obtain a confession along with assisting several other states on cases involving the illegal taking of wildlife that stemmed from this particular case.
Kovach also has built partnerships with local court staff, including judges and prosecutors, and with local law enforcement agencies. He is tapped annually by the Michigan State Police and Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department to participate in Operation Hemp, where illegal marijuana grows are found and destroyed. This partnership has paid dividends as he has been called upon to investigate illegally taken game found when county or state law enforcement officers are executing search warrants.
At the local level, Kovach is active in his community through affiliations with Bluewater Quality Deer Management, 4 Square Sportsman’s Club and as a guest judge for the St. Clair County 4H.
To learn more about the work of the state's conservation officers, visit the DNR websitewww.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.