by PAUL CATALA
Angela Shope says “from day one” she’s known she wanted to get a career that would combine environmental conservation and law enforcement.
And at 22 years old, Shope has accomplished that: She’s now a law enforcement officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Shope graduated from South Florida State College, Avon Park, in May 2021 and is now a full-time officer with FWC since July 2023. She’s based in Baker County, works with the FWC regional office in Lake City and lives in Union County.
From the Baker County office, Shope says she covers Baker and Union counties and enjoys the “woods side” of FWC patrols. She says she particularly likes the hunting enforcement aspect of FWC but also spent time over the summer on water patrols.
Shope’s mother worked in forestry at the Osceola National Forest and partly inspired Shope to get involved in conservation-related law enforcement.
“But I really like the woods side of it, being out in the forest, enforcing laws out there,” she says, citing illegal shooting, taking game out of season and running deer dogs out of season as examples. “I really just want to have people know that you just cannot do these things because then we’re not going to have deer or other game for future generations.”
Shope says she was 18 when she first visited an FWC recruiter but was told she had to wait until she was 20 before she could apply to work there. She maintained contact with the recruiter while joining the local police department working as a dispatcher while she waited for the FWC application period to open up.
Shope’s FWC application was accepted in October 2022, and she then spent the next four and half months at FWC Academy in Tallahassee, where she was trained to be a law enforcement officer.
“You have to learn how to be a cop,” FWC Officer Ron Howard, who is the agency’s southwest region recruiter, says in a written statement. “You learn what you can and cannot do, the rules, the regulations, the Florida statutes, the limits of your authority in Florida. Once you have that as your base, you take your test, you pass your state certification exam, and then you’re certified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to be a law enforcement officer in Florida.”
Shope and other future FWC employees in training are then given their badges, their guns, and spend six to seven months of training in Tallahassee, where they learn boating, fish and wildlife, off-road driving, man tracking, and other skills to become a qualified conservation officer.
Since becoming a full-time, registered FWC officer, Shope says she’s been on the job in the woods on water, mostly inshore saltwater where she drives boats and does vessel stops, safety inspections and enforce fresh and saltwater fishing regulations.
“Within the agency, I have the opportunity to work details, like on holidays, and assist other states when disasters hit, such as for hurricane relief. The animals are a big part of my decision to join FWC rather than work in a more traditional law enforcement job,” she states. “I have worked with a local biologist in capturing and rehabilitating a black bear. I got to set free a spotted whitetail fawn that someone was keeping in captivity.”
Off the water, Shope says animals are a big part of her job, and she’s even worked with a local biologist to track, capture and rehabilitate a black bear. She also got to free a spotted whitetail fawn being kept in captivity.
As for her future with the FWC, Shope says every five to six years, she’ll have the chance to become an officer specialist, senior officer or investigator – all promotional jobs. She says she’d like to eventually become a lieutenant over a region.
“I’d rather be out there catching the bad guy. This is a proactive agency, not a reactive agency. We put effort and time into catching people rather than waiting for a dispatch call,” she says.
Outside of the field or water, Shope says she and her family raises swine, cattle and goats, she enjoys hunting and fishing and gardening. She’s also an accomplished softball player and was the starting center fielder for the SFSC Lady Panther Softball team and also played third base in her sophomore year.