With around 100 state parks, the Chugach and Tongass national forests, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and countless bays, inlets, and rivers, Alaska is truly America’s last frontier.
In Alaska, all game wardens are actually state troopers, employed by the Department of Public Safety and referred to as wildlife troopers. More than just state troopers, wildlife troopers have special training and education that prepares them to identify and investigate wildlife crimes.
To become a game warden in Alaska, troopers must make it through a highly selective screening and hiring process.
Becoming an Alaska Wildlife Trooper
Initial Qualifications – Candidates who would like to pursue game warden jobs in Alaska can start by making sure they will be attractive applicants. Having an educational background in a relevant field is way of doing this.
Besides demonstrating a commitment and knowledge to pertinent subjects, applicants with a bachelor’s degree in any of the following subjects will also have preferred credentials for similar positions at the federal level:
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Law Enforcement
- Criminal Justice
- Wildlife Management
- Lands Management
It is also important that applicants can meet the minimum game warden requirements for hire as a wildlife trooper, as specified by the Department of Public Safety:
- Be at least 21 years old, a US citizen, have a high school diploma or GED and a driver’s license
- Have a good personal history
- Have no felony convictions
Applying with the Department of Public Safety – Candidates can apply online for wildlife trooper positions through the Department of Public Safety’s application webpage. The entire application and hiring process takes about 10 months to complete and is comprised of a series of successive steps:
- Extensive background investigation
- Medical and psychological evaluation
- In-depth interview
- Physical fitness testing, which includes:
- 1.5-mile run
Game Warden Training – The Alaska State Trooper Training Academy is located in Sitka and lasts approximately 18 weeks. This is a live-in, paramilitary-style environment where new recruits will learn the essentials of law enforcement and state trooper skills such as:
- Use of handguns, patrol rifles, and shotguns
- Law enforcement theory
- Alaska and federal law
- Self defense
- Arrest and apprehension techniques
- Driving maneuvers
The instructors of the training academy include both regular state troopers and wildlife troopers.
After becoming a full-fledged state trooper, candidates will have the option of obtaining additional training to become a fish and game warden. These wildlife troopers are trained in areas including:
- Identifying illegally take big game
- Interdicting the illegal harvest of sport and commercial fishers
- Game and trapping rules and regulations
- Boating laws and safety
- Habitat protection:
- Watershed damage reduction
- Environmental permits
Federal Game Warden Positions in Alaska
Game warden positions can also be held at the federal level through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Referred to as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents, these federal game warden jobs can be obtained through a completely different process than those at the state level.
To start, applicants for these federal positions are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Management, Criminal Justice, or another related subject. Applicants also need to be between the ages of 21-36.
Filing an application to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can be done through the federal employment website, USA Jobs.
Training for these positions begins with 20 weeks covering wildlife law enforcement and criminal investigations at a federal training center in Georgia. Upon completion of this, new federal game wardens will need to complete an additional 44 weeks of training with a field officer.
Federal game wardens help to patrol some of Alaska’s most popular wildlife destinations:
- Denali National Park
- Glacier Bay National Park
- Kenai Fjords National Park
- Buskin River State Park
Saving Alaska’s Natural Wildlife Wonders
Because of the state’s abundance of wildlife and sparse population, wildlife troopers are often hundreds of miles away from poachers who may feel empowered by their isolation. However this does not stop game wardens from following up on any actionable information they discover about illegal activities within their jurisdiction and purview.
A crime scene was recently investigated by wildlife troopers that involved a dead moose and her calf. What first appeared as a car inflicted trauma turned out to be an event of poaching upon further investigation. Wildlife troopers were able to rescue the baby calf and transport it to a zoo where it will likely be raised in captivity.
State and federal forces combined their efforts in another case involving the illegal hunting of up to 50 black bears, according to a statement released by a federal US attorney. This announcement came after a separate case involving two poaching rings were busted, which illegally killed 14 black bears to harvest their gallbladders for sale to buyers in Asia.
Alaska Wildlife Officer Salary
The Alaska Department of Public Safety serves as the state’s primary law enforcement agency that enforces criminal laws, traffic regulations, and state fish and game regulations and works through two, distinct law enforcement divisions: the Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
Both Alaska State Troopers and Wildlife Troopers attend the same academy. Because of the limited number of vacant positions in the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers, most Wildlife Troopers first begin as State Troopers. After two years, State Troopers have the opportunity to bid into the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
The starting salary among recruits is $72,768 ($34.98/hr.), while the starting salary for recruits with a bachelor’s degree is higher, at $75,492 ($36.29/hr.).
Additional salary increases are based on years of experience:
- 1 year: $78,324
- 2 years: $81,264
- 3 years: $84,312
- 4 years: $87,468
- 5 years: $90,744
- 6+ years: $94,152
(Add an additional 3.75% to the above salaries for a bachelor’s degree)
Salary data compiled by the Alaska Department of Public Safety – https://dps.alaska.gov/AST/Home. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for wildlife troopers. Data represents state salary ranges for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
Salary data accessed in July 2019.