Since its debut in 2012, “North Woods Law,” an Animal Planet TV show that features Maine game wardens at work, has proven popular with viewers in and out of the state.
However, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has decided not to enter into another contract with the company that produces the show. The show will end sometime next year.
Andy Seestedt, the show’s supervising producer for Engel Entertainment, confirmed on Thursday that crews are finishing up work in the field and that the show won’t continue beyond next season.
“We have film crews in Maine right now, and will be there for the duration of deer season,” Seestedt said. “And in all likelihood, we’re starting to wrap up the series, yes.”
In August, Col. Joel Wilkinson, the state’s chief warden, said that the current “North Woods Law” contract called for filming to wrap up by the end of the year. The show’s future was up in the air, and in order for future filming to take place, a new contract would have to be signed.
On Thursday, Wilkinson said a decision had been made in-house — with his recommendation to Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock — that the show’s contract not be renewed.
“When we looked at the goals of our project, which was to bring awareness [to] the general public and the sporting public of the duties of wardens and what they do, we feel we met that kind of goal for us. We feel like we’ve met it very well,” Wilkinson said. “We also feel like there’s only so much material that you can cover in each season. We feel that it’s important for the show to go out doing really well. And at this time, everybody needs a break.”
Despite what he describes as a good relationship with the Maine Warden Service and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Seestedt confirmed that a new contract agreement could not be reached.
The show has developed a devoted fan base in its four years on the air. Engel Entertainment, the company that produces the show for Animal Planet, has seen the show thrive with an audience that has grown since its debut three years ago, Seestedt said.
“I really can’t say too much about it at this point. What I can say is that the show is doing better than it ever has,” Seestedt said. “We have a larger, stronger, more active fan base than ever before. The show is performing strongly; Animal Planet is a big believer in it, as is the warden service.”
But fans still have a little longer before they have to say goodbye to wardens Kris MacCabe, Jonathan Parker and all their favorite “stars” of the show.
Seestedt said 10 hours of the show were filmed through the summer and are ready for airing, and another 10 hours — a full season — will be provided to Animal Planet after crews return from the field after deer season ends later this month.
Seestedt said that Engel Entertainment has already formulated a plan for the show’s finale, and said it will be worth watching.
“In nonfiction television, the usual formula is that a show keeps going on and on and on until it fades away or people lose interest in it and it just fades out and nobody ever knows what happens to it,” Seestedt said. “We want to make sure that when we do a ‘North Woods Law,’ we do it in a way that is respectful to what the show is, and to the people who love it. And basically, [we want] to give them the signoff that we think they deserve.”
Wilkinson agreed with Seestedt’s assessment, and praised the working relationship that the Maine Warden Service had with production crews.
“It was basically kind of a collective decision here in house that it was time to end the relationship, and it isn’t in any way [indicative] that things are bad,” Wilkinson said. “Things are fantastic with Engel. They’ve been supportive. We’ve been supportive of them. But it was time for us to step away from the [show] while it was doing well.”
Seestedt said he and his crews have loved working on the show.
“We are sad to see something end that we love so much, but we’re excited to do it in the way that we’re going to do it,” he said.
This summer, the DIF&W began offering Camp North Woods, a summer camp designed to capitalize on the show’s popularity and introduce youngsters to outdoor recreation.
In August, Wilkinson said he hoped the camp would grow from the 96 who were chosen to attend this summer to as many as 1,000 campers per year in 2018. On Thursday, Wilkinson said the DIF&W would continue to try to grow Camp North Woods, and said partnerships that have been formed while the TV show was being filmed and aired can continue to help fuel enthusiasm for the camp.
The show’s popularity with Mainers is hard to deny: At several annual events, including a “North Woods Law” day held at the Maine Wildlife Park, thousands of fans wait in line to meet their favorite wardens from the show.
“It’s incredible what this quirky little show with a positive message has done, and how it has connected with people,” Seestedt said.