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     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
works 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.

     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.

     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.

If 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

Lethbridge College

Lethbridge, AB
Renewable Resource Management
Bachelor of Applied Science – Conservation Enforcement

Vancouver Island University

Nanaimo, BC
Bachelor of Natural Resource Protection

Arctic College
Iqaluit, NWT
Nunavut Research Institute
Environmental Technology Program

University College of the North
The Pas, MB
Natural Resources Management Diploma Program

Yukon College
Whitehorse, YT
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
course that 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:
●Emergency vehicle operation – Cooperative driving skills and driving emergency vehicles under emergencysituations, driving laws, multi-task functioning.
●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.
●Basic 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,
and 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.

 You 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?
Many 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
to 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 see.

Author: Lindsey Leko.
Lindsey is a member of the
Saskatchewan Association of Conservation Officers.

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