The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department considers its game wardens to be the best trained officers of their kind in the nation. During training new recruits get their hands dirty with a live exercise involving catching alligators and duct-taping their mouths closed. This is important because game wardens are often the ones called to respond to situations involving alligators who have strayed into populated areas.
Wildlife officers in Texas must also train for serious criminal situations involving poachers. Through an anonymous program that began in 1981, Texas has paid out cash rewards to the tune of $195,000 to residents who have turned in poachers.
Only the strongest candidates make it through the selective application process to qualify for game warden training in Texas. Preparing to become a game warden in Texas is a multi-year process that can start by planning for a college degree.
Becoming a Game Warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Meeting the Minimum Employment Requirements – Game warden jobs in Texas require candidates who meet the minimum requirements:
- Have a bachelor’s degree in any subject
- Be a US citizen
- Have a driver’s license
- Not have any felony or Class A Misdemeanor convictions
- Have normal hearing and vision (correctable)
Candidates who are considering employment as either state or federal game wardens may consider a bachelor’s degree in fields such as:
- Wildlife Management
- Criminal Justice
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Land Management
- Law Enforcement
Application with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – Applications are submitted online and only accepted when there are job vacancies, which are posted on the Parks and Wildlife Department’s website. The application process proceeds through the following chronological steps, each of which must be passed in order to proceed to the next:
- Application made online
- Physical readiness test
- 21 sit-ups in one minute
- 13 push-ups in one minute
- 1.5-mile run in less than 21.61 minutes
- 300-meter run in less than 109.01 seconds
- Dry fire weapon test
- Be able to tread water for 30 seconds, then swim 100 meters in no more than five minutes
- Interview and Personal History Statement
- Background investigation
- Interview with the Major, Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, and HR Director
- Physical and psychological evaluations in Austin
Texas Game Warden Training Academy – Candidates who have succeeded in distinguishing themselves throughout the application process will be scheduled to complete the 30-week Texas Game Warden Training Academy. The academy itself is in the midst of a transition from facilities located in Austin to a new academy site under construction located centrally in Hamilton County.
The training a new game warden cadet receives includes all the foundational knowledge needed for the first field assignment. Training will also prepare new cadets to pass their required peace officer licensing exam at the end of the academy. Instruction and exercises cover:
- Fish, wildlife, and natural resource management
- Boat operations and water rescue
- Law enforcement tactics
- State and federal laws
- Homeland security
- Defensive tactics
- Civil defense
- First aid
Becoming a Federal Game Warden in Texas
In addition to the option of working for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, candidates may also be interested in learning how to become a fish and game warden in Texas with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Applicants are shown preference if they hold bachelor’s degrees in a field related to Criminal Justice or Wildlife Management. Applications are submitted online through the official job title of US Fish and Wildlife Service Office Special Agents on the USA Jobs website.
Training takes place over 20 weeks in Georgia and also covers similar topics. As could be expected, a greater emphasis is placed on federal laws and collaboration with other federal intelligence and criminal investigative departments. This is followed by an additional 40 weeks spent in the field alongside an experienced training officer.
Texas Game Wardens Protecting Wildlife and Upholding the Law
As the largest state in the continental US with an abundance of natural resources, especially along its international border with Mexico, game wardens in Texas play an important law enforcement role. Poaching often involves hunting big game such as deer, but the many rivers and lakes in Texas – in addition to the Gulf – are also the sites of hundreds of poaching incidents every year. Recently this has included:
- A recent Houston Chronicle article revealed that every year fishermen from Mexico illegally cross into US gulf waters at night to poach millions of pounds of fish, worth millions of dollars. Additionally they often use illegal devices such as gill nets that can trap turtles and other endangered marine animals.
- Two men who were recently charged with illegal roadside hunting after Texas game wardens, acting on a tip from a member of the public in Hidalgo County, discovered a poached javelina hog in their truck.
- A Starr County man and his friends who were recently arrested after they were seen shooting at random deer. It emerged that the man was a local law enforcement official and was subsequently suspended from his job.
- The interception of a boat illegally fishing off Corpus Christi by Texas game wardens, who were in possession of over 800 red snapper fish worth approximately $4,200. Game wardens confiscated the catch, which to be legal should have numbered just 28, and sold it to the public upon return to port.
Texas Wildlife Officer Salary
The average Texas game warden salary of $53,000 as of 2013 was about 9.3% higher than the nationwide average of $48,070 that year. This is based on statistical data released by the Labor Market & Career Information Department of the Texas Workforce Commission.
The highest paying area in the state for game wardens in 2013 was North Central Texas, where the average salary was $53,441. This area includes the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, and Plano.
Game wardens in Texas are employed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). Here, the TPWD has identified the potential career opportunities for game wardens and their associated salaries as of 2013:
Game Warden Sergeant
Game Warden Lieutenant
Game Warden Captain
Game Warden Major