A lot of people think it's a dream job, and Adam Pankratz isn't going to argue.
Pankratz, a 2011 graduate of the University of Minnesota Morris, is a game warden captain for the District 3 region of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. He's based on Bozeman.
"I used to keep a log of the wildlife I'd see but it became so numerous I don't do it anymore," Pankratz said.
While he's seen bear, moose, elk and others he still appreciates each time he sees any wildlife, including the deer on his lawn.
"I personally take a holestic view of wildlife. Everything is connected, from the chipmunk and skunks you see...(to what you don't see)," Pankratz said. "Every moment I have to see wildlife (is valuable)."
And in a way, Pankratz is able to have a kind of holelistic approach in his job because of his work experience, life experience and college degree. Pankratz earned an environmental studies degree from UMM.
As game warden, "you are a kind of jack of all trades," Pankratz said. He needs to know about fisheries, wildlife, land management, communications, parks and other facets of his agency.
His environmental studies degree provided a good base in science and in social science including how government works, Pankratz said.
If he had a degree in only wildlilfe management or criminal justice, he wouldn't have been as well prepared for his job, Pankratz said.
"Definitely my experience (and) with my degree, (it) is more fitting for my job," Pankratz said.
While the majority of game wardens may have some sort of wildlife degree many of the staff hired in the past five years have environmental studies degreees, he said.
Pankratz took a non-traditional route to his degree. He tried college after graduating from Alexandria High School but it didn't take. He became a law officer and spent seven years in law enforcement in Bozeman.
His wife Latysha was also a police officer. After their second child was born the couple evaluated their careers and lives and decided to return to college. They chose UMM because it was familiar to him and affordable, Pankratz said.
Pankratz will be back at UMM on April 8 and 9 for a lecture and panel discussion. Pankratz will speak at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 8, in the science auditorium. His lecture is titled "Conflict in Conservation." Pankratz will be part of a forum called "Hot Topics in Conversation" at 7p.m. Tuesday, April 8, in Imholte Hall 109.
Some of the conflicts in his job aren't always what people would think.
Pankratz said the conflicts he has related to employees can cause more stress than any encounters with the public, with other agencies or daily work.
Two of his department's employees died in a murder/suicide incident when one officer shot the other in 2016. While that's an extreme example, jobs involve working with others and sometimes, there is stress and conflict, Pankratz said.
But day-to-day, Pankratz is able to relieve some work stress by checking on fisherman or counting mountain goats.
"On Monday, (April 1) I was patrolling (in a canyon) between two mountain ranges. (On April 2) I was wrestling (to release) a calf bison who got caught up in a barbed wire fence. (On April 3) I'm attending an interagency meeting on grizzly management. On Friday I'm in the office," Pankratz said.
That kind of variety is why Pankratz understands when people tell him he has a dream job.