Shikar-Safari Officer of the Year, Valor Awards Presented at GFP Commission Meeting

October 9, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. – Several honors were handed out at the October meeting of the Game, Fish and Parks Commission. District Conservation Officer Supervisor Tim McCurdy was recognized by Shikar-Safari Club International as the South Dakota Wildlife Officer of the Year and Valor Awards were presented to four individuals for their part in a water rescue this spring. 

McCurdy started as a Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) in 2007. Since that time, he has served primarily in northeast South Dakota and in many roles, including Law Enforcement Training Supervisor and his current role as District Conservation Officer Supervisor (DCOS). Throughout his career he has also balanced a military career with his WCO duties and, this summer, retired from the South Dakota National Guard.

“The greatest assets Tim brings to the Region Four Team are his dependability and his strong work ethic,” said Kraig Haase, Regional Conservation Officer Supervisor. “Tim is a natural leader in our region and throughout the state. There are many accomplishments that are direct products of Tim’s leadership.” 

As the Law Enforcement Training Supervisor, McCurdy was instrumental in advancing several programs, including the Wildlife Conservation Officer Training Program, an Emergency Vehicle Operation Course (EVOC) and the Boat Safety Instructor program. Most notably, McCurdy played a key role in the development of the recently formed GFP Honor Guard. From policy development and implementation to selecting members, organizing training and securing uniforms, McCurdy helped the special group find success every step of the way. 

“I’m really proud of Tim’s efforts to get the Honor Guard going for our agency,” said Kelly Hepler, Secretary of Game, Fish and Parks. "Without Tim’s dedication to this program, it would not have advanced. Our department is better for his work in so many areas.” 

The Shikar-Safari Award is given annually in all 50 states and in 10 Canadian provinces by the worldwide conservation organization. It has been presented to a South Dakota officer each year since 1968. The award honors wildlife officers for their performances in wildlife protection, wildlife law enforcement, and in the implementation of wildlife conservation programs.

L-R Sargent Austin Schmitz, Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Rick Miller, Pat Thompson, Wildlife Conservation Officer John Murphy, GFP Secretary Kelly Hepler, Arden Petersen, Pat Redden, Mark Schaeffer.

In addition to McCurdy’s recognition, four individuals received Valor Awards from GFP along with Awards of Commendation from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). GFP Regional Park Manager Pat Thompson and Maintenance Technician Pat Redden, along with South Dakota State Trooper Sargent Austin Schmitz and Pierre resident Mark Schaeffer were recognized for their role in a water rescue last spring.

In April, a 66-year-old man was rescued after falling out of his kayak at the Fort George Boat Ramp on Lake Sharpe. He was fishing approximately 200 yards from shore and was not wearing a lifejacket. The man dropped his rod and reel in the water and, in an attempt to retrieve it, fell out of the kayak. Holding onto the side of the kayak, he was unable to either get back in or swim to shore. The water was approximately 39 degrees at the time.

Working on a nearby boat ramp and realizing the man was in trouble, Thompson and Redden took action immediately by calling 911. Knowing a response would take some time, they also began efforts to flag down a boat to get to the man.

Soon after the 911 call, South Dakota State Trooper Sargent Austin Schmitz arrived at the boat ramp. Meanwhile, Redden had made his way to Highway 34 and flagged down Mark Schaeffer, who was passing by with a boat in tow. 

Working together, the group unloaded the boat into Lake Sharpe and rescued the man from the 39-degree water. The man was taken by ambulance to the Pierre hospital, where he was treated for exposure and released.

The Valor Award is newly created by GFP to recognize extraordinary efforts by staff within GFP or other agencies, and members of the public.


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