The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is not used to having women in its ranks: until recently there were only two in the entire state. But that number rose to three in December when Danielle Neal received the title of game warden after completing field training.
Neal is not unused to law enforcement work: she became a deputy sheriff in Jackson County immediately after graduating from Tennessee Tech. She actually skipped a majority of game warden training, having completed Police Academy training before her deputation years before.
But work as a game warden is different in significant ways from traditional law enforcement positions such as sheriffs or urban police officers. Game wardens are permitted to carry firearms, issue citations, and make arrests under certain conditions. The difference is largely in the goals of the position: game wardens are meant to protect the natural resources and wildlife of America’s parks and reserves.
The legal structure in place game wardens are meant to use in enforcing the law in these regions is different as well: under Tennessee law anyone who hunts or fishes is required to cooperate with wardens, even to the point of allowing searches of their person or vehicle.
Neal noted the strangeness of being a woman in a male-dominated profession in her state, but said it won’t hinder her job or make it an unpleasant experience. She suggests that being a female can actually help her in certain situations, as an armed male in uniform can occasionally be unsettling in the way a female may not be.
In spite of traditionally being a field dominated by men, more women are stepping into work as a game warden. The growth is slow, however; Oklahoma’s first female game warden started work in 1990. In 2009, that number rose to a mere three.
Hopefully more women see the success of game warden’s like Danielle Neal and join the field.