Steven T. Callan – Game Warden, Author, and Defender of the Natural World

Steven T. Callan is the award-winning author of Badges,Bears, and Eagles—The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden,a 2013 “Book of the Year” award finalist (ForeWord Reviews). He is the recipient of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 “Best Outdoor Magazine Column” awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of California. Steve’s sequel, The Game Warden’s Son, was released March 1, 2016, by Coffeetown Press of Seattle, and is the focus of his 2016 book tour.

Jane Manaster, writing for the Manhattan Book Review, had this to say in her five- star review of Callan’s latest offering: “A witty and enlightening memoir, The Game Warden’s Son brims over with tales of stake-outs using disguises and subterfuge to trap transgressors. . . . The book’s slang or jargon related to wildlife is a fun bonus and makes the timely account of environmental protection even more enjoyable.” Click here to read the full review.

Steven T Callan has led an extraordinary life. Connected to the land and sea and the flora and fauna, in ways many of us will never know. Luckily for the rest of us, he’s written about his experiences and we can get a glimpse into his stunning world through his excellent prose.

The Interview – Part I

Your memoir The Game Warden’s Son is part coming of age, part environmental awareness and protection, and part honoring of your father. How did you decide on the shape and format you were going to take for this beautiful book? 

My first book, Badges, Bears, and Eagles, was a collection of true stories, beginning in the early seventies when I began my career as a warden with the California Department of Fish and Game. In The Game Warden’s Son, I went further back in time, but kept the same basic format: a collection of individual true stories. This time around, I added an additional, more personal element—the lifelong relationship between a boy and his father.

I try to educate and weave a conservation message into every story I write. In the case of The Game Warden’s Son, I wanted to show how my storybook childhood and close relationship with my father helped mold me into the wildlife officer I would later become. In the last chapter, my intention was to bring a half century of wildlife enforcement work full circle and, in a small way, thank my father for all he’d done for me.  

The physical, active, hands-on experience of being a warden and the internal, intellectual pursuit of writing feel like such different skill sets. How do these two disciplines compliment each other for you? 

Conserving our precious natural resources and writing have always been two of my passions. Being able to write well is essential if you’re going to be an effective wildlife officer, or any kind of enforcement officer, for that matter. Catching violators is only half of the job; convincing a DA, judge, and/or jury that your case is worth pursuing and will likely result in a conviction is the other half. As a patrol lieutenant, I constantly stressed the importance of writing to the officers I supervised. Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of extensive and complicated arrest reports, search warrant affidavits, and search warrants. 

My intensity of purpose absolutely drives my writing, as it did my performance as a wildlife officer. As an officer, I saved wildlife by arresting outlaws and working to conserve habitat. As a writer, I try to save wildlife by educating readers with compelling stories.

In your opinion, is there one overarching societal problem that threatens wildlife or is every instance different? What do we, as a society, need to do to have a positive impact on our relationship with the natural world?

It would probably take a master’s thesis to adequately answer the first part of this question. I will cut to the chase and say the overarching societal problem that threatens wildlife is elimination or destruction of habitat—on land and under the water. In this country and all over the world, wildlife numbers are diminishing directly or indirectly because of human actions: burning fossil fuels, land development, mining, agricultural practices, dam building, overfishing, poaching, commercial exploitation, deforestation, . . . The list goes on.
            Teaching our children to obey laws, recycle, conserve energy, and appreciate nature is a given. As a society, we need to decide if we want our grandchildren to be able to enjoy the natural world as we knew it or leave them with nothing but photographs of the way it once was. Do we elect people who will make decisions for the long-term good of the earth and its inhabitants or continue on our present course like a runaway train headed for the cliff?

            I do believe there’s hope—that’s what drives me to include a conservation message in my books, columns, and presentations. We need to act quickly, however.

Check back for Part II of the Interview


Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.