The Maine Warden Service has worked to protect the state’s fish and wildlife for 132 years, but not until now has its full story been told. Starting March 16, it will be on national television.

Animal Planet’s new series “Northwoods Law” will devote six episodes to the duties, adventures and risks inherent in the work of Maine’s wardens. And that may be only the start of the show, which its producers think could be a hit.

“It all depends on the audience. If they love it, we would love to go back” to Maine, said Executive Producer Mick Kaczorowski, who finished filming here last week. “To me, as an executive producer, we’ve just begun to tell this story. There are more stories to tell and a lot more interesting adventures.”

The project, two years in the making, started when producers from Animal Planet approached the warden service about the idea. The service did not warm to the project at first, but the work that wardens have done with the film crew has forged a close relationship.

“We wanted to make sure a national program on game wardens was not sensationalized. It needed to be factual, accurate and real,” said Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service.

“We were approached by another national network some time ago, and I won’t name who, but we didn’t feel it was a good fit for us because it might have been over-sensationalized,” MacDonald said.

A wilderness show shot in Maine was a big draw to the producers, Kaczorowski said. But it was the intense and sometimes dangerous work of the game wardens, as well as their passion for their job, that hooked the network officials, he said.

Maine game wardens investigate snowmobile and boating fatalities, find lost people, check fishing and hunting licenses, and police ATV and snowmobile trails, among other duties.

When a black bear wandered into downtown Portland last fall, Animal Planet was there shooting footage.

When warden divers did a water search for Ayla Reynolds of Waterville, who disappeared in mid-December, the television crew filmed it.

And while wardens tagged fur trappers’ pelts at the Palmyra Fur Auction on Dec. 11, Animal Planet followed along.

Kaczorowski said a wide variety of stories played out during the five months the network filmed. Each of the six episodes covers a different region of Maine, showing the contrast between Maine’s wild places and its urban areas.

“Northwoods Law” is a story about a place as much as the people, Kaczorowski said.

“It’s a unique job and a unique part of the country. We were looking for another way to tell a wildlife story and the people who dedicate their lives to taking care of it. … When we looked at game wardens, it’s a new area that we had never investigated,” he said.

It was the small, everyday things that surprised Kaczorowski, who has produced shows about other law enforcement agencies. One was the fact that wardens are so well known by the people they serve, and greeted by Maine outdoors people everywhere.

The wardens were pleased with Animal Planet’s approach. MacDonald said that if the producers decide to make subsequent episodes, there’s a good chance the wardens will enjoy that exposure.

“Maine is the favorite playground of the East Coast, and everyone comes here to recreate outdoors,” he said. “We are the people that give people something to hunt and fish for. Giving us that national exposure is good for us. So in two years, if they want to slice our budget and 17 million people across the country and a half-million in Maine watch that show, they’ll say, ‘No. What those men and women do is important.’“

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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