Chay Keenan-Toop grew up in the Cariboo and returned in 2021 to work as conservation officer. Here he is seen at the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) office where the COS recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the TNG rangers. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Chay Keenan-Toop grew up in the Cariboo and returned in 2021 to work as conservation officer. Here he is seen at the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) office where the COS recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the TNG rangers. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

OUR HOMETOWN: Wildlife protector

Chay Keenan-Toop was inspired to become a conservation officer as a teenager

A visit from a conservation officer (CO) to his family’s ranch toward Horsefly for a bear problem when he was 14 years old set Chay Keenan-Toop on a career path he does not regret.

He has been a CO since 2017, working first in Prince George for a year and three years in Vanderhoof before moving back to the Cariboo to work in the Williams Lake office in February 2021.

Born in Vancouver to his mom Nola Keenan and dad Marshall Toop, he grew up on the ranch. He attended Glendale and Columneetza schools and has two sisters and three brothers.

For 13 years of his life he was part of 4-H and during secondary school played rugby, while also enjoying fishing and hunting.

Ken Owens was the CO who visited the ranch and after meeting him, Chay went into the COS office in Williams Lake and sat down with Len Butler, who was the sergeant at the time.

“He set me up as a volunteer and on the right path. I would follow them around, going on patrols, doing equipment maintenance and bear work in communities.”

Right after high school he attended Vancouver Island University for the two-year resource management officer technology program. When he was done, he worked for BC Parks for one year before being hired on by the BC Conservation Officer Service.

In love with the adventure of the job, he said everyday is something different.

“You don’t usually end up with what you expected.”

READ MORE: Cow moose rescued from frozen pond near Williams Lake

There are two field officers in Williams Lake right now, with a third one joining them in the near future, as well as Sgt. Jeff Tyre and Butler who is the inspector.

The biggest challenge of the job is the vast region the local office covers and trying to get everywhere and to all the communities, he added.

Chay is married to his wife Alyssa and they have two daughters Rosalie, 5, and Scarlett, 2. Alyssa is originally from Salmon Arm.

The couple met through a 4-H provincial program when they were children and developed a friendship.

Their home is on the family ranch toward Horsefly where they have a few head of cattle and chickens.

Chay continues to enjoy hunting and fishing and all that the Cariboo Chilcotin has to offer.

“I love the environment and diversity — it is one of my favourite places to be.”

Figuring out that he wanted to be a conservation officer at a young age is still something he is grateful for.

“And I’m lucky I was able to transfer to Williams Lake when I did.”

Working with the COS, he can stay put in the Cariboo-Chilcotin as long as he would like to.

“I will probably be here for a very long time,” he said.

“It’s great because we can build relationships with people in the region where we work.”

Recently he and his colleagues attended the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Tsilhqot’in National Government rangers.

READ MORE: Trust, cross-cultural training part of new agreement between COS and Xeni Gwet’in

As each person sitting around the table took a turn to share some thoughts with the others, Chay said he looked forward to working with all of the rangers and seeing them on title lands.

“It is a beautiful area and blows my mind to this day,” he told the rangers. “It’s kind of nice to be in a room with like-minded people who share a common goal.”



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