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Can a Felon Become a Game Warden?

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Many felons find it challenging to get a job after being released from prison. Those that have interest in wildlife and experience working outdoors might consider a career as a game warden.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a game warden.

  • What is a Game Warden?
  • What Education/Training Does a Game Warden Need?
  • How Much Does a Game Warden Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Game Warden?

A game warden is an officer who has been commissioned in the state in which he or she performs his or her job duties. They enforce state fishing, boating, and hunting regulations along with any federal laws that pertain to these activities.

A game warden is also called a conservation or wildlife officer and serves state and federal agencies as a commissioned law enforcement officer. They monitor and manage wildlife populations and track and apprehend poachers.

A state game warden is typically employed through the state’s Fish, Parks, and Wildlife Department. A federal game warden is employed as a special agent in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is a federal agency within the Department of the Interior.

A wildlife officer’s job description may differ from one department or agency to the next. However, the major duties and requirements are usually fairly similar. Most jobs require these officials to:

  • Enforce laws
  • Investigate violations
  • Apprehend violators and issue citations
  • Patrol assigned areas
  • Coordinate educational programs for the public
  • Assist wildlife management efforts
  • Work with other law enforcement agencies
  • Conduct search-and-rescue operations
  • Collect evidence regarding violations

There are many skills required to be successful as a game warden. These include:

  • Communication skills
  • Writing skills to complete reports
  • Empathy to understand the perspectives of a wide variety of people
  • Good judgment
  • Problem-solving skills to resolve disputes
  • Physical stamina to keep up with job demands

What Education/Training Does a Game Warden Need?

The requirements to become a game warden are as follows:

  • Be between the ages of 21 and 36
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Have no misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence
  • Be a United States citizen
  • Be physically and mentally fit

A candidate to become a game warden must have a college degree, preferably in a program related to:

  • Natural resource conservation
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Ecology
  • Wildlife biology
  • Environmental science
  • Fish and wildlife management
  • Criminal justice

An applicant must be examined by a licensed psychologist and be declared in satisfactory psychological and emotional health for law enforcement duty before employment and receiving a peace officer license.

They must also be examined by a licensed physician and declared physically capable of performing the duties of a game warden before employment. An applicant must complete a physical readiness test. This is administered by a licensed physician and a written medical clearance must be issued.

A federal game warden trainee must complete 20 weeks of basic training at the federal law enforcement agency in Glynco, Georgia. The program involves training in criminal investigation and wildlife law enforcement. This includes:

  • Firearms training
  • Crime scene identification
  • Electronic surveillance

After completing basic training, all new federal game wardens must complete 44 weeks of field training at an assigned duty station.

A new game warden at the state level can expect to complete an extensive training program although the requirements vary from one state to another. Many state wildlife department training programs last as long as eight months followed by additional field training.

How Much Does a Game Warden Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 6,020 game wardens in the U.S. in 2016. The median salary for game wardens was $56,410. This is the salary at which half of game wardens earn more and half less. Job growth for game wardens is estimated to be 2.9% from 2016 to 2026.

The states that employed the most game wardens are:

  • Texas
  • New York
  • Georgia
  • California
  • North Carolina

An Opportunity for Felons?

An applicant mustn’t have had a commission license to be a peace officer denied, revoked, or voluntarily surrendered. They also can’t have a dishonorable discharge from the military.

To be appointed to a cadet position, an applicant must provide comprehensive background information. The applicant must be of good moral character and not have any of the following issues:

  • Conviction for a felony or class A misdemeanor at any time
  • Conviction for a class B misdemeanor within 10 years prior to the date of application, including convictions for DUI, family violence, and being on probation or parole

The biggest challenge for felons will be being able to carry a firearm, which is a requirement of a game warden. There are conditions which must be met in gaining approval to own a firearm again. First of all, the applicant can’t have been convicted of a ‘forcible’ felony within the past 20 years. Also, at least 20 years must have elapsed since the end of any incarceration for that felony.

Next, the applicant’s criminal history and reputation must be such that the applicant demonstrates he or she won’t act in a manner considered dangerous to public safety. Additionally, restoring a felon’s firearm rights can’t be contrary to the public interest or federal law.

For those felons with nonviolent felonies, or those considered to be minor, the process is not as difficult, provided felons have lived crime-free lives during the past 20 years. In order to establish having lived a clean life for the past 20 years, felons must demonstrate a stable work history and strong, healthy ties to their community.

The educational requirement is not as much of an obstacle. A felon can pursue any degree he or she wants. Approximately 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, although there is no standard policy regarding a background check.

Any felon that wants to get a degree in criminal justice or a field related to becoming a wildlife officer can find a college that will accept him or her. The challenge is in getting a job as a game warden following graduation.

In order to be successful as a game warden, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. They’re already seen with negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check this constitutes fraud and is punishable by jail time. It is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a game warden. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It’s a major challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become a game warden. Giving him or herself the best chance for success by having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make a critical difference.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life and achieve a goal no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a game warden with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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