He became the de facto face of the Maine Warden Service through his star role on the TV show “North Woods Law,” and now game warden Kris MacCabe has another accolade to add to his resume: Warden of the Year.

In a room filled with fellow wardens, McCabe received this coveted award on April 14 at the

warden service’s Annual Awards Banquet in Winslow.

“Since the beginning of his career he has consistently displayed exceptional performance in all facets of his job,” Col. Joel Wilkinson, chief of the Maine Warden Service, said. “Including the pursuit of intentional fish and game violators, time management, public relations, community involvement and successful completion of his K9 duties.”

In addition to his exceptional work as a Maine Game Warden, MacCabe was recognized for his role representing the warden service in the Animal Planet show, which filmed for four seasons in Maine before moving to New Hampshire in 2016.

“He’s been a role model for many young viewers and has utilized this opportunity to educate members of the public, young and old, on a variety of fish and wildlife related issues,” said Wilkinson. “In doing so, he’s also helped define the agency with a high standard of professionalism.”

Though the award was for much more than MacCabe’s participation in the popular TV show, his role in the show and its influence on the public perception of the warden service over the years was a component.

“I could not have arrived at this point in my life without the love and support of my family and friends, McCabe said, standing at the wooden podium. “This job has given me so much, including meeting my wife, and becoming a reality TV star.”

And after laughter died down from the crowd, he grinned and added, “And apparently a Fathead,” referring to a lifesize cardboard cutout of his head that had made it to the event.

On a more serious note, McCabe said, “To all of you that I’ve worked with, past and present, I want to thank you for teaching me, and pushing me to be the best that I can be.”

Having started his career as a Game Warden in the western Maine mountains just 10 years ago, MacCabe is especially young to achieve “Warden of the Year,” arguably the highest honor bestowed by the agency. Now serving as a district warden in Farmington, he handles a heavy caseload consistently each year while staying active in his community and accepting public speaking engagements on a regular basis. In 2016 alone, MacCabe was involved in 414 calls for service and completed 18 public speaking engagements.

MacCabe also helps young people interested in becoming game wardens realize their dreams by teaching for the Maine Warden School and serving as a counselor at Camp North Woods.

“Growing up, I was petrified of the local game warden,” said MacCabe, who grew up in Monmouth. “I’d never met him, but I was still petrified of him.”

One of MacCabe’s chief goals is to bridge the gap between game wardens and the communities they serve, to foster better relationships and educate youth about fishing, hunting and the state’s natural resources.

In recent years, he’s been a part of a wide variety of community events because of his involvement with “North Woods Law,” including meet-and-greet events at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, that have attracted thousands of show fans, young and old.

“The show did a lot of things for this agency,” said Wilkinson. “There were people in the organization that were lukewarm about it at first, and when it took off, they recognized that it created an opportunity for everybody in here to be a role model for kids and youth in the outdoors, which for me is just a tremendous, awesome opportunity for all of us.”

All awards are kept a secret until the annual event, so after the announcement, MacCabe received plenty of congratulatory backslaps and handshakes from his fellow wardens.

“There are a lot of people who are very deserving of this type of award, they’re all very good game wardens,” MacCabe said after the ceremony. “It’s just they have to choose one every year, and I’m very honored it was me this year.”

Also receiving awards at the ceremony:

K9 Search and Rescue of the Year: Cpl. Michelle Merrifield and dog Piper, for the their rescue of a 70 year-old-man missing for approximately eight hours and overdue for two doses of medication, immobile and suffering from mild hypothermia.

K9 Conservation Case of the Year: Warden Paul Farrington and dog Koda, for their proficient evidence searching regarding a case in Merrill, where a subject discharged a firearm too close to a dwelling. In addition, Warden Farrington demonstrates continued hard work and dedication in K9 search deployments and K9 training for the Maine Warden Service.

Exemplary service awards: Warden Josh Polland, for outstanding law enforcement efforts related to fishing enforcement and cases related to hunting under the influence, illegal deer hunting and guiding without a license; Warden Doug Kulis, for his outstanding work apprehending a habitual deer hunting violator in Georgetown; Warden Josh Beal, for apprehending a habitual trout fishing violator two years in a row; Wardens Ethan Buuck and Lauren Roddy, for assisting several passengers and likely saving lives regarding an overturned watercraft on Belgrade Lake; Warden Cody Lounder, for his outstanding efforts related to fishing and game bird enforcement while managing one of Maine’s busiest patrol areas; Warden Gary Sibley, for his expertise in search and rescue and likely saving the life of a missing man from a camp on Square Lake in Aroostook County during extreme cold; Warden Adrian Marquis, for his diligence and area knowledge to investigate vandalism issues on Long Lake (Aroostook County) resulting in three local residents being charged with Class A arson related to ice fishing shacks and equipment; and Warden Dave Chabot, for successfully apprehending an uncooperative convicted felon.

Supervisor of the Year: Sergeant Alan Gillis

Colonel’s Award: Brian MacMaster, Director of Investigations for the Maine Attorney General’s Office

Legendary Game Warden Award: Retired Game Warden Don Annis

Maine Warden Association Merit Awards: April Collins, Maine Warden Service Administrative Assistant; Mark Sayer, chef at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy; Shelly Simmons and her daughter, supporters of the Maine Warden Service; and Joe Poirier.

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...