Warden pilot Jeff Spencer of Eagle Lake is Maine's 2022 Game Warden of the Year. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Warden Service

FORT KENT, Maine — Jeff Spencer of Eagle Lake is Maine’s 2022 Game Warden of the Year.

Spencer, 57, a helicopter pilot who has served Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the past 25 years, said news of his award was a bit overwhelming, mostly because he loves his job so much.

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe I get paid for it,” Spencer said. “We do this every day. We eat it, drink it and breathe it every day.”

Spencer received the award from the Maine Warden Service Friday at a ceremony in Winslow. Gov. Janet Mills and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso spoke.

Spencer began his warden career in the North Maine Woods in the Estcourt Station district, where he quickly made an impact with numerous cases regarding over-the-limit fish and night hunting.

He was later promoted to sergeant, and then became a game warden pilot. His search and rescue efforts, as well as assistance in protecting fish and wildlife resources, have earned him praise, according to the Warden Service.

Spencer has conducted several recent successful search and rescue sweeps from his aircraft, and has handled multiple fish and wildlife cases.

Most recently, he was among a team of wardens who helped rescue two stranded hunters in the North Maine Woods on Thanksgiving Day.    

He and a group of four other wardens earned an exemplary service nod in 2021 for locating two elderly men who had gotten lost while fishing. Searchers found the men at 2 a.m. suffering from hypothermia and dehydration but safe.

In fall 2020, Spencer searched by air for more than 10 hours off the Island Pond Road in the North Maine Woods, finally locating a lost man along a brook several miles from his vehicle.

Candidates are nominated by their peers.

“Pilot Spencer is and has always been the quintessential picture of a Maine game warden, stepping out from trees in places where the public never expected to be checked,” said his nomination. “His work as a warden, K-9 handler and currently as a pilot has left a lasting impact on the people and resources of Maine.”

For Spencer, it’s all about making sure every moment of his job and life counts.

“So much happens in the course of your career over a week or a day,” Spencer said. “We all take this very seriously, what we do, and try to help each other.”