Regardless of who you deal with in the field, common
themes come up when conducting a field check. “Your job is always
something that I would have liked to do” or “how does one become a game
warden?” or “my son or daughter sure would love to do your job.” There
are even some people who really have no idea what we do, but think that
their son or daughter would love to do our job.
Some people think that we save the whales, pandas, and parks, or
they relate the job of a game warden to a character in a Walt Disney
movie. Sometimes, we have to remind people that we have duties in our
position which are not fun, including: dispatching injured wildlife,
looking for evidence while digging through a poached animal that has
been sitting for days in the sun,
or dealing with people who are not really happy to see us, are all common occurrences that officers deal with.
Aside from these few negative duties that officers have,
the majority of our work is fun and exciting. We work outdoors; we see
new places and have duties which are far from the norm in other
environmental careers.Role of a game warden
The role of a conservation officer, along with the type of
people who become conservation officers, sure has changed in 20 years.
In the past, officer’s duties were mostly dealing with hunting,
trapping, and fishing violations and ensuring compliance with the
regulations. Back in the day, a sound knowledge of hunting and fishing,
along with a two-year diploma, was enough to be a game warden.
Today, the role of a conservation officer has surpassed
the old view and now many officers (depending on the agency one
for) deal with environmental issues, parks, forest fires, problem
wildlife, public education, and enforcement of a wide variety of
federal and provincial legislation. With this added mandate, the
education level and requirements necessary to be a
game warden have also changed.Self-Assessment
After doing this job north of 20 years, I can say honestly
that a career as a game warden is not for everyone. A true
selfassessment of your abilities and desires may be necessary prior to
enrolling in a resource program, graduating, and getting
a job, only to find out it is not for you.
A game warden’s job, although very rewarding at times, is
also very demanding. I recall taking out a ride-a-long and seeing
the disgusted look on their face when I had to dig through a carcass to determine a possible cause of death. Many had no idea
that we would even entertain work like that, but it is a necessary and very important part of an investigation. Every officer
has a great deal of responsibility placed on them and is accountable for their responsibilities.
Some questions that you may want to ask yourself include:
●Am I able to dispatch injured wildlife?
●Do I have a fear of certain species of wildlife?
●Am I capable of carrying a firearm as part of my personal issue?
●Am I capable of using that firearm in the protection of myself or the public?
●Can I keep my emotions under control and restrain negative actions when faced with opposition or provocation?
●Am I able to work alone, in harsh climates, in remote locations?
●Am I able to effectively deal with conflict?
● In the face of uncertainty, can I make necessary decisions that are both timely and reasonable?
●Am I able to work under pressure?
For people who are truly interested in pursuing this as a
career, I have always suggested that they go out on patrol with a game
warden to see first-hand what the duties are and talk to the officer
about the job and their interest in it. Many agencies have a
ride-a-long program where you can accompany a game warden on a patrol.
Once a province has determined that there is a vacancy,
many agencies put out a position advertisement for individual opening
positions. Some provinces have multiple vacancies, so they develop an
eligibility list. This means that once positions come open, they have
officers that they can move into those positions. Each province has
minimum requirements that they have designed for their positions.Education
Once you have decided that a career as a conservation
officer is for you and you have a good understanding of the educational
requirements, picking a good institute for your educational needs will
be the next step. There are many factors that will go into your
decision on where to go to school. Some may wish to travel outside of
their province, while many will wish to stay in their home province as
most provinces have some type of resource schools. A good suggestion
would be to talk to
your local game warden to find out where they
went to school. Ask what they liked about it and what they did not
like. These types of questions and their answers can assist you with
making a decision that is right for you and your family. Some colleges
offer a simple two-year diploma, while others offer a Bachelor of Conservation degree.
you are still in high school, pay attention to the prerequisites for
entry into your chosen college. I remember when I was in high school, I
opted to take home economics rather than chemistry. This decision was
based on my desire to get a good meal in me
before football practice
after school. I sure wish I had taken chemistry as it would have made
classes like aquatic biology, zoology, and soils much easier to
understand. Some of the colleges in western Canada that offer a
resource management program include:Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Prince Albert, SK
Integrated Resource Management
Resource & Environmental Law Diploma
Renewable Resource Management
Bachelor of Applied Science – Conservation Enforcement
Vancouver Island University
Bachelor of Natural Resource ProtectionArctic College
Nunavut Research Institute
Environmental Technology ProgramUniversity College of the North
The Pas, MB
Natural Resources Management Diploma ProgramYukon College
Renewable Resource Management
Aside from education, each province has additional
requirements that applicants must possess prior to being hired by a
provincial resource law agency. Congratulations … you’re hired… now what?
Now that you have passed all of the requirements, you may
be issued a letter of offer of employment. In most cases, once you
accept, you will then be sent to the Western Conservation Law
Enforcement Academy. This school is much like the RCMP and municipal
training courses to which new recruits are sent.
The Western Conservation Law Enforcement Academy (WCLEA) is
designed specifically for game wardens. It is a 16-week
is taught by provincial instructors from western Canada. These
instructors use an innovative approach to deliver a comprehensive
training program designed for the game warden. Classroom and field
courses cover specialized areas including but not limited to:
vehicle operation – Cooperative driving skills and driving emergency
vehicles under emergencysituations, driving laws, multi-task
●Boat operations – Operation of both large boats and
smaller aluminum boats. Care and maintenance of both inboard and
outboard motors is also important.
●ATV operations – ATV safety and operation, types of ATVs and uses.
criminal law – Knowledge of the Criminal Code of Canada and its
applications, federal and provincial statutes, and the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms.
● Investigations – How to properly conduct an
investigation. How to collect evidence, process crime scenes, and
prepare court documents.
●Human/wildlife conflicts – How to investigate and recognize conflicts that arise between people and wildlife.
●Firearms – Safe handling and qualification on service pistol, shotgun, and rifle.
●Self-defence tactics - Tactical ground fighting, edged weapon assaults, multiple assailants, knowledge of the Use of Force
While attending this resource academy, you will be
provided with a full uniform component, a salary, and meals, supplies,
accommodations are covered. Once you have successfully graduated from
WCLEA, you may return to your home province and begin a field-training
program which can take up to a year. This is carried out under the
supervision of a senior game warden
who will teach you department procedures and give you the assistance and guidance required to be a very capable game warden.
will be given all of the tools and equipment required to do your job
properly. These include a full complement of uniforms for summer and
winter work, firearms/duty belt, safety and personal protective
equipment, investigative tools, and mobile technology. Once employed,
most officers are in-scope, which means that they are members of a
collective bargaining group. Along with your salary, you are provided
with medical/dental insurance, life insurance, vacation/sick leave, and
a pension for when the day comes when you retire.
As mentioned earlier, there are opportunities to promote to
higher levels depending upon how your organization operates. For those
officers who do a term in the far north, you will be eligible for
additional northern leave, and a northern living allowance
depending upon where you live.Advice from a couple of senior wardens and conservation officers
Why do game wardens become game wardens?
become game wardens because they were brought up with hunting and
fishing. The person wants to find a rewarding career that is not a
normal nine to five job sitting at a desk.How should one prepare to be a game warden?
A high school student should consult with the local
conservation officer service where they wish to work and investigate
what post-secondary institutions have programs accepted by the
province. Furthermore, they should consult with those institutions to
ensure they are taking the appropriate courses in high school which are
prerequisite for enrollment in the post-secondary program. Don’t be
afraid to contact your local officer and arrange a ride-a-long. You may
see some things that you really like (or dislike) that may make your
decision easier.How tough is it to get a job as a game warden?
Anyone who displays initiative, dedication, and drive to
obtain their goal can be a game warden. These days, there seems to be
annual competitions throughout most western Canadian jurisdictions, so
opportunity is always there. Candidates have to have patience as there
is a seasonal component to most jurisdictions as well.Any tips on getting hired?
Never turn down an opportunity to gain experience in the
field, keep fit (as most jurisdictions have a fitness testing component
be hired), and don’t give up. Lastly, when given an opportunity, do not
forget the northern posting. They can be the most challenging and by
far the most rewarding.What is the best part of the job?
The diversity to the job is vast and creates an eagerness
to go to work every day, and each and every day is different and
usually has some kind of excitement. I look at it like this. I get paid
very well to do for a living what many people pay lots of money to do
as a hobby.
What is the worst part of the job?
Tough to answer, but probably the end result of a lot of
our investigations is the justice system. This is probably a complaint
of most law enforcement officers, though. Many of us spend countless
hours investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting offenders, just to
see them get a penalty that may not be reflective of the violation or
the effort made by dedicated officers. As with working in any level of
government, it can be very frustrating getting caught up in the
bureaucracy of government and some of the decisions
that are made affecting how our resources are managed and protected.What is the work/family balance like?
This can be very difficult at times. Conservation officers
are highly-trained individuals and with that, have to attend various
types of training and recertification courses. Also, we work a variety
of hours, including extended shifts, night shifts, and can work
numerous days away. It’s very difficult to commit to something like
coaching your kid’s sport team when you can’t guarantee you will be
there every time. In addition, we have to have some of the most
patient, understanding and strongest spouses who we count on to keep
the train on the tracks while we are away. Furthermore, the dedication
to be a good game warden also can put a strain on the family balance
but we must remind ourselves that family is number one.
Hopefully, this feature will give you something to think
about on your journey to become a game warden. As I mentioned at the
beginning, it is not for everyone and almost as many that said they
would like my job, after seeing what we do, have said
that they really couldn’t do it.
I have been an officer now for over 25 years. I have had
various postings throughout the province and there is nothing that I
would have changed other than getting into this career much sooner. I
have worked with some incredibly talented officers who taught me so
much and made me who I am today. The role and duty of a game warden is
a very important one.
The work force is
aging and in many provinces they are experiencing a turnover with
officers retiring. We are seeing
many more women in our ranks than
in the past which is a good thing. Locate your local officer, introduce
yourself to them, and get out in the field. You just may like what you
Author: Lindsey Leko.
Lindsey is a member of the
Saskatchewan Association of Conservation Officers.