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Warden reminisces on 25 years

LASALLE (AP) — Warden Scott Travi steered his john boat toward shore where two anglers fished the Illinois River near La Salle.

One guy said he wasn't fishing. If not, then all four poles were being fished by the other guy even though two of the poles were next to the alleged non-fishing spectator.

Travi anchored the boat and walked over to the men. As he untangled facts from fibs, a third man appeared from the woods and began fishing two of the four fishing rods. One man said this was a brother. Blood relatives aside, Travi made his point about licenses and number of fishing rods per angler and issued a warning ticket for "unattended gear."

The men discovered that playing "Truth or Consequences" with Scott Travi might get you in deeper than a catfish hole on the Illinois River.

"He's a very, very good investigator and a very good interviewer," said Sgt. Hank Frazier, who worked with Travi for the past 23 years in District 6 of Region 1, which includes the Starved Rock and Illinois valley area.

Travi, 50, of Ottawa made his final patrol as a state Conservation Police officer Sept. 30. His Facebook page was loaded with congratulations on 25 years of service.

"Warden" is the common job title for Travi but state Conservation Police officers have the same powers as state troopers. They enforce all codes of the Illinois statutes but specialize in laws regarding fish, wildlife, natural resources and outdoor recreation.

They might make drug arrests in state parks, enforce timber commerce laws and monitor taxidermists. Travi might also get involved with searches, rescues and a host of other emergencies and investigations, he said. But hunting and fishing is why he got into this line of work, he said.

"I love this job," Travi said. "When I dropped the retirement paperwork in the mailbox I almost couldn't let go. And when I finally dropped it, it made the loudest thud I ever heard."

Travi grew up in Ottawa and developed a love of fishing, hunting and the outdoors from his family. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry with a minor in biology.

"I initially wanted to be an eye doctor," he said.

His instincts steered him differently. He applied to all 50 states for a job as a state warden. He chose his home state of Illinois.

On the river, Travi checked another angler. The man said his license was in his car and he went to get it. But his fishing pole on the bank started bouncing with a bite. "You better take care of that first," Travi said. The man reeled in a big grass carp. After a couple of photos, he retrieved his license, showed it to Travi and resumed fishing.

During hunting season, a warden confronts more armed citizens than other police beats. Travi carried a Glock .40-caliber handgun.

"With this job you never know what to expect," Travi said.

Frazier said he's losing a valuable officer.

"For me operationally that's going to put a dent in my district. I've come to rely on Scott for major cases."

Calls range from the mundane to the stressful to the humorous. There was a case in May of a burglar who left his calling card — a credit card — inside a state vehicle at Illini State Park. That made for an open-and-shut case, Travi said.

In June, Travi encountered one for the books. He got a call on a Saturday afternoon of a man running around naked at Matthiessen State Park. Sure enough, that's what he found upon arrival. Travi called for backup and with some help they got him into an ambulance, he said.

"Really? When I'm this close to retirement?" Travi said.

Travi retired under the common police pension formula of putting in at least 20 years and being at least 50 years old. There's a good reason for this formula, he said.

"The criminals all stay the same age," Travi said.

So now what for this retired warden?

"I'm going to wait until the dust settles and get my bearings and then see what I want to do," he said.

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