Sustaining only some minor injuries and a few dozen AK-47 bullet holes in his truck’s windshield, one Arkansas game warden was able to recently play an important part in preventing two cop killers from eluding law enforcement in West Memphis when he rammed their vehicle. Although not typical for a day’s work, game wardens in Arkansas – also known as wildlife officers – must be prepared for anything. Wildlife officer jobs in Arkansas more often involve:
- Leading education programs at schools and civic organizations
- Teaching hunter and boater safety classes
- Acting as spokespeople to the media
- Investigating nuisance animals
- Enforcing fish and wildlife laws
Becoming a Game Warden with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Education – Key to game warden jobs with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is education. That is why the commission requires applicants for these positions to have a bachelor’s degree in a subject including, or closely relate to, the following:
- Natural Science
- Criminal Justice
- Wildlife Management
- Law Enforcement
These bachelor’s degree qualifications can also help to open additional doors for employment opportunities at the federal level.
Application – Candidates will need to meet the following minimum game warden requirements before they may submit an application:
- Have a good personal history and driving record
- Have no felony convictions
- Be able to swim
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Have a bachelor degree in a relevant field, or substitute for this with:
- Four years of certified law enforcement experience
Applications are accepted when there is an opening for wildlife officer positions. These will be posted on the Game and Fish Commission’s job opportunities website. Applications can be completed online through the job announcement or through the mail by sending a paper copy to the commission’s Human Resources Department on 2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock 72205.
If selected to continue in the application process, candidates will be scheduled for:
- Background investigation
- Medical and psychological evaluation
Training – Newly hired wildlife officers must complete the Game and Fish Commission’s extensive 20-week instructional course. This game warden training will provide a sturdy foundation for new officers in subject areas such as:
- Strayer University - Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice
- Rasmussen College - Law Enforcement Associate's Degree and Post-Degree Certificates; Criminal Justice Bachelor's Degrees
- Michigan State University - Online Master of Science in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis
- Saint Joseph's University - Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Utica College - Online Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice
- Penn Foster - Online Wildlife and Forestry Conservation Career Diploma
- Fish and game regulations
- State and federal wildlife laws
- Poaching investigations
- Undercover and surveillance operations
- Driving techniques
Game wardens can also elect to receive additional training to become qualified as part of the dive or special response teams.
Federal Game Warden Careers
In addition to state-level wildlife officers, candidates can also consider becoming a fish and game warden at the federal level. These positions are offered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where these officers are officially referred to as Special Agents.
Applications can be submitted through the federal employment website. Candidates must meet a few standard qualifications:
- Preference given to candidates with a bachelor degree in a field related to Wildlife Management or Criminal Justice
- Applicants must be between the ages of 21-36
- Applicants must be US citizens
Training for these positions begins with 20 weeks at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. While in attendance, federal game wardens will learn the basics of conducting criminal investigations and wildlife law enforcement. This is followed by an additional 44 weeks spent at various locations throughout the country with an experienced field training officer.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife game wardens in Arkansas are particularly important in managing the state’s 10 federal wildlife refuges, which include:
- Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge
- Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge
- Overflow National Wildlife Refuge
- White River National Wildlife Refuge
All in a Day’s Work for Arkansas Game Wardens
The news feed from the state Game and Fish Commission provides a good indication of what game wardens face on a daily basis. Recent arrests and their preceding charges are a good example in themselves:
Buying and selling wildlife – This charge was leveled against a White County couple as the result of an undercover operation conducted by game wardens. The pair is alleged to have bought deer meat from undercover wildlife officers to sell at their roadside food stand.
Fleeing from a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault, and being a felon in possession of a firearm – these are just some of the charges brought against a Lee County man who shot at a stuffed deer alongside the road. Watching from a hidden location nearby was a game warden, who the suspect tried to run over with his vehicle when approached. After a short pursuit the would-be poacher gave up the chase.
Arkansas Wildlife Officer Salary
Wildlife officers for the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC) earn a salary of $36,850 as cadets. After the completion of field training, wildlife officers earn a starting salary of $40,535.
While the AGFC doesn’t publish a salary schedule for wildlife officers, it does provide employment and salary detail, by rank, in its appropriations and operations annual report.
For example, as of 2018-19, there were 25 AGFC sergeants who earned a maximum salary of $72,670. By 2019-2020, the maximum salary for these professionals will increase to $83,571.
There were 126 AGFC corporals working for the AGFC. The maximum salary for these professionals was $70,108 in 2018-19; by 2019-2020, the maximum salary will increase to $80,624.
The report also revealed a maximum salary of $71,432 for wildlife officers and a maximum salary of $75,004 for wildlife officers, first class, as of 2019-2020.
Salary and employment data compiled by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission – https://www.agfc.com/en/. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for wildlife officers. 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.