How to Become a Wildlife Inspector with the US Fish and
Wildlife Service

Wildlife inspectors are an integral part of the law enforcement team within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These law enforcement officers are responsible for ensuring that all wildlife shipments coming in and out of the country comply with federal wildlife protection laws.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife inspectors are stationed at U.S./Mexico and U.S./Canada border crossings, all of the nation’s major international airports, 18 designated ocean ports, and a number of wildlife traffic-specific ports.

Although there are just 140 wildlife inspectors with the Service, these law enforcement professionals monitor more than $2 billion worth of trade goods every year. Wildlife inspector duties include stopping illegal shipments, intercepting smuggled wildlife, and intercepting smuggled wildlife products, all of which help the Service fulfill its commitment to global wildlife conservation.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Inspector Job Description

Wildlife inspectors enforce a wide range of federal and international laws and treaties, all of which are in place as to protect wildlife and limit or prohibit the commercial trade of endangered animals and plants. These professionals must be able to understand and identify species of plants and animals, as well as parts and products.

The enforcement efforts of the Service’s wildlife inspectors include:

  • Clearing legal imports and exports
  • Stopping shipments that violate federal or international laws
  • Verifying that shipment contents match with declaration forms
  • Ensuring that all wildlife imports and exports are accompanied by the required licenses and permits
  • Ensuring that animals in transit are treated humanely

In addition to processing commercial cargo shipments, wildlife inspectors with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are called upon to monitor passenger traffic as to prevent travelers from returning to the U.S. with illegal wildlife souvenirs.

Because wildlife smuggling operations are often carried out using human couriers, the wildlife inspectors of the Service work with other federal agencies, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to police international travelers.

Wildlife inspectors may also work in specialized task forces that routinely conduct inspection blitzes at international mail processing facilities.

Finally, Service wildlife inspectors often conduct outreach programs that are designed to educate individuals and organizations, such as international travelers, hunters, customs brokers, and trade associations, on wildlife import and export regulations.

Meeting the Requirements to Become a Wildlife Inspector

Jobs for wildlife inspector jobs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are typically announced on the USAJOBs website (www.usajobs.gov).

Individuals who want to learn how to become wildlife inspectors with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must meet a number of minimum requirements, which include being a United States citizen and possessing a valid state driver’s license.

Wildlife inspectors are hired at the GS-5, GS-7 or GS-9 federal levels, with experience and education requirements differing at each level. However, at the GS-5 federal level, individuals are required to possess either a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university or at least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-4 level.

In addition to meeting either the education or experience requirements of the appropriate federal level, candidates are encouraged to have knowledge of wildlife taxonomy and zoology. Further, the Service also recommends that candidates possess a background in criminal justice, computer literacy, and communication skills.

Typical degree programs pursued by candidates for wildlife inspector jobs with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service include:

  • Criminal justice
  • Sociology
  • Criminology
  • Environmental policy and management
  • Forestry
  • Wildlife management
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Environmental studies
  • Wildlife sciences
  • Wildlife biology
  • Zoology
  • Ecology

Degrees in wildlife sciences, wildlife conservation and related programs are commonplace among individuals pursuing jobs as wildlife inspectors, as they are geared toward study in the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitats, with an emphasis on maintaining biodiversity through conservation and management. Courses in these programs are typically focused on population and dynamics, habit restoration and management, wildlife ecology, and conservation biology.

Because Service wildlife inspectors work at cargo facilities, warehouses, and border check stations, candidates for these jobs must be comfortable handling and lifting wild animals and lifting and moving heavy cartons.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Inspector Training Requirements

All new wildlife inspectors with the Service must attend a basic training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. Following the eight-week training program, which includes four weeks of study at the FLETC’s Wildlife Inspector Basic School, new recruits then receive extensive, on-the-job instruction and guidance through in-service training programs.

Subsequent to basic training, wildlife inspectors must then complete at least 40 hours of training each year. This training is designed to maintain proficiency in law enforcement techniques and skills and keep inspectors updated on changes in laws, policies, regulations, and current trends in wildlife commercialization.

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