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Mark Ventura, of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, has received the prestigious honor of being named as the Tennessee Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) Wildlife Officer of the Year. Ventura was presented the award during the 65rd Annual SEAFWA Conference that the TWRA hosted in Nashville.
SEAFWA is an organization whose members are the state agencies with primary responsibility for management and protection of the fish and wildlife resources in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. More than 4,000 wildlife officers are in the area that SEAFWA encompasses.
Ventura is assigned to Maury County in Middle Tennessee. He is actively involved in the community in various civic and outreach programs including those to recruit new hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts to helping preserve the outdoor heritage.
He developed a Hunters for the Hungry program in Maury County. He assisted in deer rallies and a youth squirrel hunt. Ventura has recruited volunteers to help him teach hunter education in Maury County, resulting in classes that led to the certification of more than 450 students this year.
Ventura regularly teams will local, state and nationwide law enforcement agencies assisting with investigations of wildlife crimes. He assists local law enforcement agencies in river-related incidents requiring boat operation assistance and equipment.
He regularly volunteers for extra training that becomes available. Ventura serves as the district Pressure Points Control Tactics (PPCT) instructor and has had recent training in chemical immobilization and bird identification training for bird surveys. He serves as statewide Advanced Man-Tracking Instructor. He serves as a member of the Disaster Animal Relief Team in Maury County, providing equipment, assistance and expertise on wildlife issues if a natural disaster were to occur.
Over the past year, Ventura led his district in arrests with more than 100 and assisted other offices in more than 60 other arrests. One of the cases highlighted was a year-long investigation in which a landowner was prosecuted for the illegal poisoning of numerous species of wildlife and federally protected species. He also was able to prosecute three individuals for killing numerous songbird species and federally protected raptors and other migratory birds after taking a lead from a Facebook posting.
He uses long range surveillance techniques to keep TWRA controlled lands and boat ramps clean for public use. The concentrated effort led to 28 arrests for litter, alcohol use, and other access area violations.
The SEAFWA conducts its annual conference each fall. The conference provides a forum for the presentation of information and exchange of ideas regarding the management and protection of fish and wildlife resources throughout the nation, but with emphasis on the southeast.