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‘North Woods Law’ Offers a Gentler View of Law Enforcement (and More Bears)

By Neil Genzlinger

RANGELEY, Me. — “Are you filming?” the first boater pulled over on Rangeley Lake here asked. He had recognized the two Maine game wardens who were maneuvering their boat abreast on a sunny August Saturday.

On another boat, the reaction was, “Hey, you’re the guys from the TV show.” The five people aboard seemed on the verge of snapping photos.

Such is life on the job these days for the wardens of “North Woods Law,” an Animal Planet reality show that enjoys rabid popularity in Maine. On this particular afternoon, some of the boaters being pulled over for registration, fishing license and equipment checks seemed disappointed that the two wardens, Kris MacCabe and Sgt. Scott Thrasher, were accompanied by a mere newspaper reporter and photographer, not by the show’s film crew. Maine’s incendiary governor, Paul LePage, generates a lot of headlines, but for sheer on-the-street recognizability, the “North Woods Law” wardens may have him beat.

“When you approach someone, they want to know where the cameras are,” Mr. MacCabe said, describing his average patrol. “If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that, I’d be doing O.K.”

“North Woods Law,” now in its fourth year, has turned the men and women of the Maine Warden Service into sought-after celebrities. Before heading out on lake patrol that Saturday, Mr. MacCabe and Sergeant Thrasher, along with other wardens featured on the show, logged flesh-pressing time at the Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum as part of Oquossoc Day, an annual festival staged by a village that is a subsection of Rangeley. Oquossoc is not exactly on the way to anywhere — it is in central Franklin County, almost two and a half hours from Portland — but the modest museum drew 411 visitors that day, more than double its previous one-day high.

“Look at these pages,” the woman minding the sign-in book at the door said, showing off sheet after sheet of names.


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