Inside: A wildlife enforcement officer maintains wildlife laws and educates the public; thus, protecting vulnerable species.

Wildlife Enforcement Officers are law enforcement officials who watch over human interactions with wildlife.  They make sure the safety of the public as well as making sure people are obeying the rules and regulations on wildlife and natural resources as they affect the surrounding ecosystem.  In most cases, Wildlife Officers are law enforcement officials having full police powers in their jurisdiction. The laws these officers regulate have a positive impact on the long-term conservation goals of their area of enforcement.  The laws aim to reduce damage and threats to the environment, its ecosystems and biodiversity and protect threatened and potentially threatened species and their habitats.

“The purpose of conservation: The greatest good to the greatest number of people for the longest time.” — Gifford Pinchot, first Director of the U.S. Forest Service

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What Wildlife Enforcement Officers Do

Wildlife Officers may be involved in a number of activities as part of their job description.  It is a dynamic career as no two days will be the same.  As a wildlife officer your day may include any of the following:

  • enforcing conservation laws;
  • patrolling forests and conservation areas;
  • checking hunting and fishing licenses and other conservation licenses;
  • enforcing hunting and fishing limits;
  • patrolling to prevent poaching and off-season fishing and hunting;
  • investigating and gathering intelligence about wildlife crimes;
  • conducting inspections of property about possible wildlife infractions;
  • investigating often in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies;
  • making arrests when necessary for wildlife crimes;
  • writing reports about investigations and gathered intelligence;
  • providing courtroom testimony;
  • assisting in accident investigations, especially those involving wildlife and search and rescue operations;
  • educating youth groups and schools through wildlife and conservation programs;
  • teaching hunter safety courses;
  • assisting people with questions about wildlife;
  • saving trapped wildlife;
  • investigation nuisance wildlife complaints;
  • protecting wildlife and threatened/endangered species;
  • completing wildlife surveys of many kinds of wildlife and habitats for biological information
USFWS Mountain-Prairie, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Education Requirements for Wildlife Enforcement Officer

Education requirements differ depending upon country, area and level of government.  Preference is often given to those with a relevant bachelor’s degree.  Completion of training modules are also a requirement.

In the United States, the following requirements are typical:

  • a minimum of 2 years of post-secondary education;
  • preference is given to those holding a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject area such as natural science, environmental science, biology, ecology, criminal justice or law;
  • must be at least 21 years of age;
  • must be a U.S. citizen;
  • must pass required background checks and/or drug testing;
  • must complete a state-run training program of 3 – 12 months.

In Canada, the following requirements are typical:

  • a post-secondary degree or diploma in natural or environmental science, marine biology, ecology, law, police sciences or criminology;
  • must complete successfully a 9-week Basic Enforcement Training course
Average Salary Range of a Wildlife Enforcement Officer:

$33,000 – 88,000 per year and as most jobs are within the government, generous health and retirement packages are often a benefit

Interesting Facts about Wildlife Enforcement

“One of the big myths about this job is that you can shut yourself off from the human world and live like a wildlife hermit.  Nothing could be further from the truth.” — Conservation officer George Allerby of Missouri

We do a fawn study, where if we find a doe that has been killed by a car in the spring, we remove any fetuses, sex them, measure them (this all gives information on the breeding timeline of the does, when the doe got pregnant, and when the fawns would have been born). We also remove one of her lower jaws to be aged later to give the ages of the does having fawns. — Beth Fife, Wildlife Conservation Officer in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Given the prevailing levels of wildlife crime in the continent, there is need to improve the capacity for collaboration amongst law enforcement agencies through information sharing. Fighting wildlife crime requires concerted efforts involving pooling financial, human and information resources. We must share intelligence because this is one of the most important prerequisites to effectively fight the ever-increasing sophistication in wildlife crime.” — Mr. Mohamed Wa-Mwanchai, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife of the Republic of Kenya

Educational Institutions Offering Wildlife Enforcement Officer Degrees/Diplomas

Fleming College , Lindsay, Ontario – Lindsay Campus:  Conservation and Environmental Law Enforcement; Fish and Wildlife Technologist/Technology

Sault College, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario – Fish and Wildlife Technician

Holland College, Charlottown, Prince Edward Island – Wildlife Conservation Technology

Lakeland College, Vermillion, Alberta – Fish and Wildlife Officer

Lethbridge College, Lethbridge, Alberta – Conservation Law Enforcement

Copyright 2015 Teresa Coppens
Nic McPhee, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Skills Required for Wildlife Enforcement

  • strong interpersonal skills
  • strong problem-solving skills
  • strong analytical skills
  • strong investigative skills
  • passion for nature, wildlife and the outdoors
  • ability to safely work with firearms
  • ability to work with minimal supervision
  • experience in operating small watercraft and ATV’s
  • ability to stay cool under pressure while working with the public and suspects
  • ability to speak a second language is a strong asset
  • hunting and fishing skills
Gentry George, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain, via Wiki Commons

In order to increase your chances of finding the perfect job in a career such as Wildlife Enforcement, it is important to start planning as early as possible. Keeping a checklist of goals to achieve on your way to a satisfying career is helpful to keep yourself on track and to provide your best chances of getting  your dream job. Fill out the form below to receive your free checklist!

Job Opportunities in Wildlife Enforcement

Municipal Government: Parks and Recreation Departments

Provincial Government: Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources

Federal Government (Canada): Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Environment Canada, Parks Canada

State Government : State Parks

Federal Government (U.S.):U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Natural Resources

International Opportunities: World Wildlife Fund, United Nations

Related Fields

  • Conservation Officer
  • Environmental Lawyer
  • Forest Manager
  • Naturalist
  • Park Warden
  • Wildlife Manager
cartoonist for “St. Paul Pioneer Press” – 1908 editorial cartoon in St. Paul MN “Pioneer Press, PD-US, via Wiki Commons

What is a Wildlife Enforcement Officer - This is a career for those mainly in environmental science. There are many schools for kids to choose from. Even those in forensic studies can find a place in this field.

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