Behind the scenes with ‘North Woods Law’
By Kayla J. Collins
Cpl. Rick LaFlamme, one of the stars of the Animal Planet reality television series, “North Woods Law,” can clearly recall the most bizarre case he’s assisted with as a Maine game warden – the discovery of a 6-foot African gaboon viper.
The snake, described as bigger than a fire hose in diameter, was discovered dead along a trail behind Cinemagic Theater in Saco in 2010.
“One of the detectives from Saco PD looked at me and said, ‘I’ve never seen a snake like that in my entire life,’” LaFlamme told about 80 members of the Spurwink Rod & Gun Club in Cape Elizabeth, where he was a guest speaker.
According to LaFlamme, not only are the venomous gaboon vipers deadly, but they also are illegal to own in Maine.
“It was as tall as I was,” said LaFlamme. “A snake that size can eat a 120-pound gazelle. It could have easily eaten a kid.”
LaFlamme, of Arundel, grew up hunting, fishing and trapping in Maine and has been a game warden for the Maine Warden Service for 19 years. Before becoming a game warden, LaFlamme served as a patrol officer, pilot and sergeant for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. In May 2014, LaFlamme became the statewide landowner relations specialist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
“North Woods Law,” which is in its fifth season, first aired in 2012. The series follows the elite force of Maine game wardens on patrol as they save lives and fight crime, from busting drunk ATV drivers to catching illegal poachers. While the show’s producer pays the department for filming privileges, wardens do not receive compensation for their TV appearances. And, LaFlamme said, there’s no dramatization whatsoever.
“Like any other show, there’s some editing, but what you see is the real deal,” LaFlamme said.
He said most of the time, “you forget the film crew is there. They basically just tagged along as a shadow. If you were working eight-hour shifts, they were there for eight hours.”
But because of his promotion to landowner relations specialist, LaFlamme opted to sit out on filming for “North Woods Law” regularly. He will make one or two guest appearances in the upcoming season, he said, and has plans to continue to make regular public appearances statewide as a star of the show on behalf of the Maine Warden Service.
“My last big episode was aired during Season 4,” he said.
LaFlamme recalled an episode of “North Woods Law” where a bowhunter in Cape Elizabeth was heavily fined for baiting deer from unmarked tree stands, which is prohibited in Maine.
“We caught the violator, and word definitely spread,” he said.
Other cases in South Portland and Scarborough have included ATV violations, serious cases of littering, snowmobile accidents and injured wildlife, to name a few, LaFlamme added.
The Spurwink Rod & Gun Club holds meetings the first and third Thursday of every month. Guest speakers have run the gamut of law enforcement officials, the Maine Attorney General, a state biologist with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and others.
“We’ve been trying to get (LaFlamme) for a while but his schedule has been really hectic,” said the gun club’s vice president, Victor Ross. “It was awesome to hear him (speak). He told some great stories and was very entertaining.”
“I’m very honored and proud that Rick LaFlamme would take the time to visit our club with his busy schedule,” said the club’s president, Tammy Walter, a fan of the show. “It was an inspiring moment for our members to have a person of his status visit us.”