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How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in Colorado

Game wardens have been on the offensive in Colorado ever since 1989 when they conducted a massive joint state and federal raid across a poaching hotspot in Costilla County. At the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year investigation, 275 game wardens with airplane and helicopter air support arrested 110 accused suspects on 850 counts for a range of wildlife law violations. Ever since this bold statement of authority, game wardens have remained vigilant of wildlife law violations in the state.

Today, known as district wildlife managers who work for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the state’s game wardens accomplish much more than just enforcement actions. Education campaigns, safety classes, and rescue missions are just a few of the activities carried out across Colorado’s 42 state parks and 135 districts.

Game wardens in Colorado work in some of the country’s most naturally beautiful environments. More than one-third of the total land of the state is classified as belonging to the public. It is the responsibility of game wardens to ensure a safe interaction between people who appreciate Colorado’s great outdoors and the wild creatures that live there. This includes the state’s:

  • 6 national monuments
  • 11 national forests
  • 28 national recreation trails
  • 2 national historic sites
  • 2 national grasslands
  • 4 national parks

 

Steps to Becoming a State Game Warden in Colorado

Minimum Education Requirements – Applying for game warden jobs with Colorado Parks and Wildlife means candidates will need to meet an important education requirement: a bachelor’s degree in one of the following subjects, or a closely related field:

  • Biology
  • Animal Science
  • Agronomy
  • Range Management
  • Zoology
  • Agricultural Science
  • Forest Management
  • Wildlife Management

Application Process – Colorado Parks and Wildlife hires 8-12 new game wardens every year. Starting each September the agency posts a job announcement and application for district wildlife manager positions on its employment webpage, through which candidates can make their bid. Future applicants are encouraged to sign up to be notified when these announcements are posted.

Selected applicants will be contacted if they are eligible to continue in the application process. Some other important game warden requirements in Colorado include POST Certification. This Peace Officer Standards and Training credential is awarded after candidates have completed a law enforcement training academy and cumulative test, as well as the following procedures which can be considered as part of the application-hiring process:

  • CPR Certification
  • Physical and psychological evaluation
  • Oral board interview
  • Extensive background investigation
  • Polygraph examination

Game Warden Training – There are two elements to game warden training in Colorado: basic law enforcement and wildlife management, which together take about a year to accomplish. To become POST Certified prospective wildlife managers will need to complete an approved training academy totaling at least 540 hours, which will include instruction covering:

  • Surveillance operations
  • Undercover operations
  • Firearms training
  • Driving maneuvers
  • Witness and suspect interviewing/interrogation
  • Arrest procedures
  • Courtroom testimony
  • Report writing

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will work with applicants throughout the entire POST certification process to ensure they choose an appropriate academy and are well prepared to pass the certification exam.

Once this basic training is accomplished and wildlife officers have become POST Certified, they will move on to conduct more specific training that really focuses on how to become a fish and game warden. This includes:

  • Wildlife handling procedures
  • ATV and snowmobile driving
  • Defensive and pursuit driving
  • Survival skills
  • Wildlife laws and regulations
  • Firearms training
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Steps to Becoming a Federal Game Warden in Colorado

Federal game wardens are an altogether different occupation from state wildlife officers. Officially referred to as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents, these federal employees are in charge of federally managed lands in Colorado, such as the state’s nine wildlife refuges and conservation areas. Federal game wardens may also lead or assist joint operations conducted with their state counterparts and other law enforcement agencies anywhere in the state, including popular destinations such as:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Colorado National Monument

Becoming a federal game warden involves similar training and credentials:

    • Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree in fields such as:
      • Wildlife Management
      • Criminal Justice
      • Law Enforcement
      • Crime Scene Investigation

 

  • Applicants need to be between the ages of 21-36
  • Applications are submitted through the USA Jobs website
  • Training takes place over 64 weeks:
    • 20 weeks covering wildlife law enforcement and criminal investigations
    • 44 weeks of field training beside experienced officers


Colorado Wildlife Officer Salary

According to the Colorado LMI Gateway, the online labor market resource center sponsored by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the median fish and game warden salary in Colorado was $38,394 in 2013.

The range of salaries among fish and game wardens in Colorado, however, is large. The Colorado LMI Gateway reports an average entry-level salary of $21,598 and an experienced-level salary as high as $53,852, which represents a difference of nearly 60%.

The Boulder/Longmont area is noted to be the most lucrative area in the state for wildlife officers. There, the median annual salary is $48,535, and $60,466 at the experienced level.

Below is a snapshot of salaries among wildlife officers in some of the largest cities in Colorado:

Colorado Springs

Entry: $23,021
Median: $36,164
Experienced: $50,132
Denver/Aurora

Entry: $20,415
Median: $34,526
Experienced: $54,338
According to the State of Colorado, the official title for this occupation is Wildlife Manager. The salary structure is as follows:

Wildlife Manager I

Minimum: $37,044
Maximum: $52,896
Wildlife Manager II

Minimum: $42,804
Maximum: $61,128
Wildlife Manager III

Minimum: $49,464
Maximum: $70,632
Wildlife Manager IV

Minimum: $60,756
Maximum: $89,856
Wildlife Manager V

Minimum: $65,916
Maximum: $97,488
Wildlife Manager VI

Minimum: $72,648
Maximum: $114,852

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, 2013

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