The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) employs over 200 game wardens, known as “wildlife officers,” to defend and preserve natural resources throughout the state and enforce applicable wildlife regulations. The duties of a Louisiana wildlife officer include:
- Enforcing hunting regulations and preventing poaching
- Investigating violations of the state’s wildlife laws
- Investigating boating accidents and other marine events in Louisiana waters
- Preventing boat theft
- Enforcing littering regulations
- Conducting hunting and boating safety classes
- Conducting health inspections of the Louisiana commercial fishing industry
Louisiana’s wildlife officers are full-fledged law enforcement officers with authority to enforce all state laws. In rural areas of Louisiana, they also enforce criminal laws and monitor instances of Driving While Under the Influence on roads and waterways. As law enforcement officers, Louisiana’s wildlife officers are armed while on duty and are trained in firearm use and safety. Physical fitness is very important for wildlife officers because they may have to pursue and apprehend criminal violators in rough seas, in rough terrain, or under inclement weather conditions.
How to Become a Game Warden with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife
Education and Degree Requirements:
The LDWF maintains strict educational and experience requirements that can be satisfied in ONE of the following ways:
- Gaining two years of experience as a certified full-time peace officer with duties that include carrying a firearm and arresting suspects; or
- Completing at least sixty semester hours at an accredited college or university; or
- Presenting a combination of work experience as a peace officer and coursework at an accredited college or university. The total of work experience and coursework must add up to at least two years. For the purposes of this calculation, thirty semester hours is deemed the equivalent of one year of work experience; or
- Completing an associate’s degree program from a technical college in a field related to criminal justice, law enforcement, forestry or conservation, or business administration. Credits taken at a technical college without earning a degree will not satisfy the requirement; or
- Earning a two-year diploma or certificate from a vocational or technical school in a field related to criminal justice, law enforcement, forestry or conservation, or business administration; or
- Earning completed diploma or certificate in a two-year program in business administration, business management, corrections, criminal justice, law enforcement, forestry or a conservation related science from a vocational or technical school; or
- Serving in the military for at least four years of continuous active duty.
Prerequisites and General Requirements:
Applicants must meet certain basic requirements to be considered for wildlife officer jobs with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries:
- Applicants must be at least 18.
- A valid driver’s license must be obtained before appointment as a wildlife officer.
- Applicants who are under indictment on a felony charge or have been convicted of a felony or who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence are disqualified unless and until restrictions on their right to carry a firearm are lifted.
- Applicants must earn a score of at least 70 on the Civil Service Law Enforcement and Protective Services (LEAP) exam. Applicants who receive a score of 77 or higher are given preference.
- Applicants must be able to lift at least fifty pounds.
- Applicants must be able to work in rough weather conditions and walk long distances and have the physical skill to operate motor vehicles and all-terrain vehicles.
- Applicants must be able to fire handguns, rifles, and shotguns accurately or be able to learn to do so with training.
When the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries needs to recruit more agents, it announces a new Cadet Training Academy Program via press release and post the positions on the Louisiana Civil Service website under the title “Wildlife Enforcement Cadet.” Applications are submitted through the Louisiana Civil Service website.
Selected applicants will become Wildlife Cadets and undergo six months of training. This training takes place primarily in Baton Rouge, the location of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters, at the Waddill Wildlife Refuge. Training is very rigorous with a Monday through Friday schedule.
Wildlife cadet training involves the following components:
- Cadets are POST-certified, which means they must meet all the standards required of other state law enforcement officers. POST stands for “Peace Officer Standards and Testing.” Certification courses in the Cadet Academy include physical fitness, firearms, arrest procedures, defensive tactics, state and federal law, first aid and CPR, and DWI detection and apprehension.
- Once they are POST-certified, cadets receive specialized training particular to the work of wildlife officers. This training includes ATV operator certification, hunter education instructor certification, water survival, land and water navigation, wildlife forensics, enforcement of state and federal wildlife and fisheries laws, advanced boat handling, marine theft identification, waterfowl detection and violator apprehension, and wildlife and fish identification. Cadets also receive additional, advanced training in physical fitness and firearms. When studying defensive tactics and firearms, the Wildlife Cadets receive special training in marine environments, rural night operations, and boat operations.
- After graduation from the wildlife enforcement training academy, cadets enter a field training officer program in a designated parish. In this programs, cadets receive on-the-job training under the close supervision of an established and experienced field officer who serves as a mentor. After successful completion of the field training officer program, cadets become full-fledged agents of the Lousiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Becoming a Federal Game Warden in Louisiana
Louisiana is in need of federal game wardens as well as state wildlife officers. Federal game wardens, known as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents, enforce federal wildlife and environmental regulations. Federal game wardens work on federal lands in Louisiana or investigate violations of wildlife law within the state. Those interested in becoming federal game wardens in Louisiana must apply directly to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The application process is very competitive. Candidates must meet the following minimum requirements:
- Be no younger than 21 years and no older than 37
- Hold a bachelor’s degree in any field, with preference for majors in areas related to criminal justice or investigation or environmental and wildlife management
- Have a criminal record free of felony convictions
- Be able to pass a thorough background check
- Be able to pass standard drug screening tests
- Pass psychological screening tests devised for candidates for law enforcement positions;
- Meet certain standards of physical fitness and agility.
Newly selected federal game wardens take a twenty-week long training course at a special federal law enforcement training center in Georgia.
Protecting Louisiana’s Natural Resources on State and Federal Lands
Louisiana wildlife officers serve as law enforcement agents in Louisiana’s varied wildlife management areas, enforcing hunting, fishing, and boating regulations. Wildlife management areas generally permit public hunting and fishing and sometimes trapping, as well as recreational activities such as boating, hiking, and sometimes camping.
Louisiana’s Wildlife Management Areas:
Louisiana is home to over sixty wildlife management areas that reflect the diversity and uniqueness of its habitats and ecosystems. Representative wildlife management areas include:
- Sherburne Complex Wildlife Management Area near Whiskey Bay, Louisiana, which is a joint land management venture, calling upon the resources of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as those of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The nearly 12,000 acres of this complex owned by the LDWF are known as the Sherburne Wildlife Management Area. The LDWF offices for the area are located in the ghost town of Sherburne, a logging town that was abandoned in the 1930s.
- Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, located near Slidell, Louisiana, boasts numerous habitats, including streams and bayous, hardwood forest, and marsh. Wildlife includes bald eagles, golden eagles, swallowtail kites, ospreys, woodcock, coyote, mink, nutria, bobcat, and alligator. Activities available to the public include hunting, fishing, crawfishing, canoeing, boating, target shooting, and limited camping.
- Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area, near New Orleans, is accessible primarily by boat. The major topography is flooded cypress tupelo swamp. Entrance to the area is by permit only; permits can be obtained at any one of thirteen on-site check stations. Maurepas Swamp offers a number of outdoor recreational opportunities, including the hunting of white-tailed deer and rabbits; the fishing of largemouth bass, sunfish, and crappie; and bird watching along a half mile long nature trail. The area also offers contract trapping for alligators and permit trapping for nutria in season.
National Wildlife Refuges Located in Louisiana:
Given its diverse, special, and fragile natural environment, Louisiana is also home to twenty-four national wildlife refuges under the direct management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a high number of such refuges for a state its size. Representative national wildlife refuges in Louisiana include:
- Breton National Wildlife Refuge, the second oldest refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge, is comprised of a series of barrier islands in St. Bernard’s Parish in Lacomb, Louisiana, and is a sanctuary for migratory and nesting waterfowl.
- Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge, in Marksville, Louisiana, was founded to protect the ecosystem of the Mississippi/Red River floodplain and provide habit and protection for migratory waterfowl and threatened and endangered species, including the bald eagle and the arctic peregrine falcon.
- Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge in east central Louisiana was formed as a wintering area for migratory seabirds, but wildlife watchers can also see white-tailed deer, raptors, and small game mammals throughout the preserve. Catahoula has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area.
Louisiana Wildlife Officer Salary
According to the Louisiana Department of State Civil Service, the entry-level Louisiana game warden salary was $25,752 in 2013. However, this is during the training period, and upon completion of training, the salary would then increase to $27,564.
In Louisiana, game wardens receive a working title of Wildlife Enforcement Agent. Additionally, there are many classifications/advancement opportunities through which an entry-level wildlife officer can advance. For example, the difference in the starting salary of a Wildlife Enforcement Agent ($27,564) and a Wildlife Enforcement Colonel ($62,067) is $34,503.
Below is the rank and salary structure of wildlife officers in Louisiana as reported by the Louisiana Department of State Civil Service in 2013:
Wildlife Enforcement Agent
Wildlife Enforcement Senior Agent
Wildlife Enforcement Sergeant
Wildlife Enforcement Lieutenant
Wildlife Enforcement Captain
Wildlife Enforcement Colonel