Stories » LIFE Publication Article

Wild life began with career

LIFE is a publication of the Red Deer Advocate November 20, 2003

Not many people would think stealing an RCMP cruiser and hiding it as a joke would be a good idea.

But, when Chuck Shipley, an Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer at the time, found the cruiser sitting, running and unlocked in front of the post office while the officers waited in line, it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

He noted the long lineup and pounced.

Unbeknownst to the officers, Shipley jumped in their car and moved it, concealing it behind a large transport truck.

Fortunately for Shipley, his little prank didn't land him in jail, but instead taught the young officers a lesson. The look on their faces as they walked out of the post office was priceless, he says.

Their mouths were a gate in disbelief and shock, as they searched frantically for their car.

Although they eventually found it, it was a day they would never forget and one of many stories Shipley would love to tell. And now, all the details of this story, and 29 others that document his crazy adventures as a wildlife officer are available in the Rocky Mountain House author's new book, Poachers, Cranberries & Snowshoes.

Shipley saw more than enough during his career to write his book. When he signed up, he didn't know what he was getting himself into, and was unprepared for the things he would see for the next 32 years of his life.

"It quickly became the neatest job I could imagine," he says.

Before he landed this job, he was working as a seismologist, but having a wife was a stumbling block for that career.

"Working in the Arctic and being married didn't seem like a great plan," he chuckles.

But, after applying for a job with Alberta Forest Services, he was surprised when he got the call to an interview for a job as a Fish and wildlife officer. Out of 400 people who applied, 10 were successful, including a shocked Shipley, who never thought he would make the cut.

It was then is adventures began. Shipley's lighthearted attitude of and sense of humor that helped him get through the often bizarre happenings in his long career.

"I have a bit of a different view on the average happenings," he says.

Because he is often joking around, many people who know him, but have never seen him work have a hard time believing he could work in a position of authority.

But it has never been a problem for him. Shipley felt people might disrespect him if he didn't give them a ticket they deserved. For some other officers it was not as easy, and their careers ended when they finally had to pull out the ticket book.

"Some people, as soon as they write their first ticket, they're toast."

But, with Shipley's first ticket, the memories began, and it didn't take long for the stories to accumulate. From an aircraft chase to a mystery of a missing moose, he has seen it all. One story he recalls vividly was of a man who had been scalped by a bear.

"Nobody sees stuff like that unless you work in a hospital," he says.

This and many other stories are the reason Shipley was cajoled by his family and friends to write the book.

"All the memories that are in here aren't only mine; they belong to everybody in the book," he says. "I am the guy who saw them as they are described in here."

Shipley had always planned on retiring when he turned 55, and only missed it by a few weeks. Although he loved the job, it was time to move on.

"Even the neatest job doesn't stay neat forever."

Shipley's book can be found at bookstores throughout Central Alberta .

"It is available at all the major bookstores and all the private ones I could find," he chuckles