With So Much Fentanyl in Wyoming, Even Game Wardens Packing Narcan

Fentanyl has become such a problem in Wyoming’s war on illegal drugs that Wyoming Game and Fish Department game wardens will start carrying Narcan to treat overdoses.

Mark Heinz

June 09, 20244 min read

As the proliferation of fentanyl use surges, Wyoming Game and Fish personnel will soon also be carrying Narcan in the field in case they come into contact with the dangerous drug.
As the proliferation of fentanyl use surges, Wyoming Game and Fish personnel will soon also be carrying Narcan in the field in case they come into contact with the dangerous drug. (Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

Wyoming Game and Fish Department agents in the field have a long list of duties, from monitoring the size of big game herds and detecting wildlife disease outbreaks to tracking down and busting poachers.

Now, add to that list possibly dealing with drug overdoses, or even fentanyl contamination to themselves.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has authorized agency field personnel to carry and be trained in the use of Narcan. That’s a medication used to counteract the potentially deadly effects of contamination or overdose from fentanyl or other opiates.

The move is “preventative and proactive, and aligns with other agencies,” Game and Fish Spokeswoman Breanna Ball stated in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

The huge surge of fentanyl-laced drugs has reached a point that even wildlife personnel out in the middle of nowhere could come into contact with people who seek out isolation to do drugs. The potential of coming into contact with fentanyl is the motivation for arming Game and Fish agents with Narcan.

It’s Best To Have It

It only makes sense for Game and Fish personnel, particularly game wardens, to be packing Narcan these days, Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Travis Bingham told Cowboy State Daily.

Game wardens are law enforcement officers after all, and wardens and deputies frequently work together in the vast expanses of Sublette County and similar places in Wyoming.

Fentanyl is everywhere, including out in the middle of nowhere. And out in the middle of nowhere would be a terrible place to be if a deputy or a warden comes across an overdose victim, Bingham said. Or, worse yet, gets contaminated by the powerful opiate.

“Fentanyl is so strong, and it takes so little,” Bingham said. “If you’re patting a suspect down, it can produce fentanyl powder. It can absorb through your skin if you touch it without gloves or you could inhale it.”

Law enforcement officers and other field employees typically carry Narcan in a nasal spray form, Bingham said.

That’s easy to carry, simple to use and can usually provide enough Narcan to keep somebody out of danger until medics arrive with more powerful Narcan injections, if needed.

They Could Back Us Up

Ball confirmed that Game and Fish requested authorization to allow interested employees to be trained in the use of Narcan partly for their own safety.

The new policy can “protect our own employees, should they come into contact with an opioid,” she stated.

It will also allow field personnel to aid any overdose victims they might come across in Wyoming’s great outdoors, she added.

Bingham said he’s happy to know that Game and Fish employees will be carrying Narcan.

“They could back us up out there, as stretched thin and as short-handed as everybody is,” he said.

Game Wardens No Strangers To Drug Cases

Game wardens have had to deal with drug-related matters in the past.

In a rather humorous episode in September 2021, Wheatland Game Warden Nate Holst responded to a report of hunters trespassing on private land near Glendo Reservoir, only to have it end up in a drug paraphernalia bust.

Holst gave one of the suspects a ride back to his own truck, according to reports.

After dropping the man off at his vehicle, Holst heard a “clinking sound” coming from the passenger seat where the man had just been.

“Warden Holst, figuring it was empty brass, reached down and picked up what he quickly discovered to be a meth pipe and lighter,” a Game and Fish report stated.

Holst called the Platte County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy responded and cited the man with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, in addition to the trespassing citation issued by Holst.

Fentanyl Here In A Big Way

But those shenanigans aside, fentanyl has become a serious problem in Wyoming.

After a high-speed, wrong-way chase ended on the Wheatland golf course in April, officers found 6,000 fentanyl pills in the suspects’ vehicle.

And a June 2023 bust in Cheyenne netted 9,000 fentanyl pills. Law enforcement officials at the time told Cowboy State Daily that the drug is quickly becoming Wyoming’s most pressing crime problem.

Montana Onboard Too

Wyoming isn’t the only state handing out Narcan to wildlife agents.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon told Cowboy State Daily that his agency has also authorized game wardens to carry Narcan.

“Our staff, in the role of law enforcement, has to deal with situations that transcend just wildlife-related matters,” he said.

Inquiries with the Idaho Department of Game and Fish regarding whether their field personnel carry Narcan were not answered by publication time for this story.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect fentanyl is not fatal to touch.

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter