11/15/2010 05:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

In Harm's Way for Wildlife: Conservation Officer Killed in Line of Duty

Even compared with some of the most hazardous jobs in the law enforcement field, game wardens face tremendous risk. Their job is also one of the most difficult, given that so few officers must police hundreds of millions of acres. The degree of difficulty is compounded because the potential victims of wildlife-related crime cannot speak, and there are so few potential witnesses to criminal acts committed in areas that are uninhabited or only sparsely so. Between all state and federal wildlife agencies, there are only about 8,000 officers -- less than one quarter the number of police employed by the city of New York, which is all of 300 square miles.

Last Thursday night, Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove was on patrol near Gettysburg, Pa. Grove was arresting a man who he had seen spotlighting and then killing deer near a residential area. The alleged poacher, Christopher L. Johnson, 27, of Fairfield, Pa, shot and killed Grove in a gunfight, according to news reports. Johnson, who is now in police custody, is a convicted felon.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove

Pennsylvania Game Commission

Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove.

David Grove was described by those who knew him as a great friend, brother, son, and uncle -- a man with "exemplary moral character," who was "well-respected," and "willing to do a lot of things to help without the need to be in the limelight." They said he laughed often, but took his job very seriously.

An editor for The Gettysburg Times was working on a profile of David Grove before the fatal encounter occurred. The writer posed some questions for the story and Grove returned his answers Thursday, just hours before his death. One of the questions asked how he would like to be remembered. Grove responded, "That I did my job with enthusiasm and passion and that I treated people with the same respect that I would want to be treated with."

Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues at the Pennsylvania Game Commission as they mourn this terrible loss.

At The Humane Society of the United States, we celebrate the heroic work of law enforcement personnel like David Grove. We run a nationwide anti-poaching program to help them with their demanding and dangerous work. Since our program began, we've offered more than $260,000 in reward funds on poaching cases, sponsored K9s that sniff out poachers, run anti-poaching public education campaigns, donated decoys and forensic equipment to state agencies, and much more.

We also believe that law enforcement deserves to have the best available anti-poaching laws at their disposal to deter would-be violators and bring those who wantonly exploit wildlife to justice. Wildlife criminals are an enemy of wildlife, animal advocates, and hunters, and our nation should exhibit little tolerance for the cruelty and mayhem they foster.

This post originally appeared on Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.