Howard Lavers was the type of guy we need in the woods.
He spent three decades busting poachers — lots of them — on the Northern Peninsula.
“He would have handled hundreds and hundreds of big-game files,” says James Maloney, director of the Department of Justice’s fish and wildlife enforcement division.
“He would have seized numerous items, trucks and quads and snowmobiles, and fines (collected) would range in the tens of thousands of dollars.”
Lavers, a conservation officer, died on the job Feb. 21.
His snowmobile went through the ice on Eastern Bluey Pond, just south of Hawkes Bay.
Two colleagues with him made it off the ice, but they were unable to save the 57-year-old Lavers, despite their best attempts.
Maloney worked with Lavers since the late ’80s, first as a fellow officer and in later years as his supervisor.
“It’s not a call you expect to get,” he says of hearing of Lavers’ death.
If there’s any comfort in such a loss, it’s that Lavers died doing something he loved.
“(Howard) was truly passionate about what he did,” Maloney says.
Especially the challenges of investigating. It seems the Port Saunders resident was something of a Newfoundland mantracker.
“He was able to track where people were and find kill sites and collect evidence at the scene. He was very good at that,” Maloney says.
Maloney remembers something else about Lavers, too — his voracious appetite.
He recalls one instance where Lavers called for backup from a site near Hawkes Bay where between 12 and 15 caribou had been killed illegally.
“The first thing he says was, ‘Did you bring any food?’” Maloney laughs, later adding, “He was only about 5’8,” but he was well over 200 pounds and lifted weights. He had a fierce appetite.”
Still, his appetite to bring poachers to justice was even stronger.
Lavers, Maloney and other officers ended up staking out the caribou kill site for more than 24 hours — without any food — and charges were laid.
“That was typical of Howard. He was very patient and put in tremendous hours,” Maloney says, noting, “I remember gathering for a meal (the night the stakeout ended). … Holy shit, you want to see food disappear!”
The extra hours were unpaid, Maloney points out, but Lavers didn’t care.
The people of the Northern Peninsula cared about him, though.
His funeral reportedly had to be held in a high school gym to accommodate the 1,000 people who wanted to pay their respects.
“The large turnout spoke to Howard’s character and personality. He was obviously well respected and well liked. He was very salt-of-the-earth,” Port au Choix Mayor Carolyn Lavers (a distant relative) told The Northern Pen.
Respect for Lavers hasn’t waned one bit. He was honoured posthumously at the recent Newfoundland and Labrador Police and Peace Officers Memorial Parade.
And this Saturday’s Uniformed Services Dinner — for men and women who serve or have served in uniform — is dedicated to his memory.
His son, Michael Lavers, a master corporal with the Canadian Forces, will attend and toast fallen comrades.
Also attending will be Cheryl LaFosse — the RCMP’s first female officer — and June Layden — the first female to join the RNC and one of the most dedicated officers I’ve ever met.
Unfortunately, I never got to meet Howard Lavers.
Listening to his longtime friend and colleague talk about him, to know him must have been both a laugh and an honour.
Maloney says Lavers’ death “is a big loss to me personally and a big loss to our organization.”
I’ll take that a step further. His death is a big loss to the entire province.
He was the type of guy we need more of in the woods.
Email Steve Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow his tweets at @TelegramSteve.