California manhunt highlights special kind of police force

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- The Los Angeles Times calls it a "surprise role" played by California Fish and Wildlife officers who spotted accused cop killer Christopher Dorner and gave chase under heavy gunfire.

It was a move that led to the climactic shoot out at Big Bear.

But it did not surprise Chief Jon Heggen, top conservation officer at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

"It was a remote area and that's where conservation officers make their living is in remote areas," Chief Heggen said. "We're the ones who know that country as good as anybody."

What the public may not know is while their uniforms may be different from other agencies, Idaho's conservation officers are highly trained in law enforcement.

"We have the same training that state police have, that sheriff's deputies and municipal police departments have," Chief Heggen said.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department has 88 field officers, and each of those officers patrols an area roughly 1,000 square miles.

The role of conservation officers has evolved the years.

In Idaho, one of the most dramatic changes took place after two Fish and Game officers were killed by suspected poacher Claude Dallas in 1981 and the Fish and Game Commission mandated all its officer wear sidearms.