How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in Delaware

The scene is all too familiar in Delaware: a man is driving on a sparsely traveled country road, spots a deer off in the brush, pulls over, aims a rifle out his window and fires a round or two at the deer. The would-be poacher will realize something is wrong when the deer does not respond to being shot. Even more alarming to the suspect will be the appearance of a Division of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officer from behind some nearby brush. In fact, this man has just committed several criminal and wildlife violations and unwittingly participated in a decoy deer sting operation.

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Game wardens in Delaware, also known as fish and wildlife enforcement agents, do much more than just deer decoys. Undercover operations, safety education, and public campaigns are some other common duties carried out by these accredited law enforcement officers. The most common wildlife violations in the state are:

  • Hunting or fishing without a license
  • Possessing unlawful game
  • Hunters not wearing orange
  • Dumping on public lands
  • Operating off an established roadway in a wildlife area

Becoming a Delaware Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Agent

Minimum Standards – Meeting the minimum standards to become a game warden in Delaware is essential for those wanting to make a successful application:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • At least 21 years old
  • US citizen
  • Normal hearing and (correctable) vision
  • Good moral character with no felony convictions
  • Height-weight proportionate

Going above and beyond the minimum game warden requirements is an advisable way applicants can initially distinguish themselves. One way of doing this is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field:

  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Forensics
  • Criminal Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Wildlife Management

Submitting an Application to Work with the Division of Fish and Wildlife – Applying for employment as a game warden with the Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement involves creating an online account with the state’s Office of Human Resource Management. Job vacancies are posted on this agency’s website, and applicants will be prompted to create an account through the vacancy posting. Candidates are advised to sign up to be notified by the Office when there are openings for game warden jobs. These positions are officially classified as Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Enforcement Officer, because the Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement is a sub-section of the state DNREC.

Attractive applicants will be contacted by a recruiting officer to continue in the hiring process, which includes:

  • Drug test
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Physical fitness test, including:
    • Vertical jump
    • One minute sit-ups
    • 300-meter run
    • Max push-ups or bench press
    • 1.5-mile run
  • Written test covering general law enforcement laws, policies, and procedures
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Training to Become a Fish and Game Warden – Game wardens in Delaware will begin their training as basic law enforcement officers. This means they will need to complete a Police Basic Training Course which is approved by the Council on Police Training. The Division of Fish and Wildlife will help new game wardens choose where to take this 568-hour course, which is offered by six law enforcement agencies in the state. Basic training will cover:

  • Accident investigation
  • Driving techniques
  • Firearms training
  • Delaware criminal code
  • First responders
  • Homeland security
  • Information systems
  • Officer survival
  • Law of arrest, evidence, and search and seizures

Advanced game warden training takes place for at least six months and will provide new hires with experience in law enforcement and narrative report writing. This portion of instruction includes:

  • Division of Fish and Wildlife-specific training and orientation
  • Hunting, fishing, and boating regulations and statutes
  • Boating and hunting accident investigations and reconstruction
  • Performing vessel safety checks
  • Environmental crimes
  • Small boat operations
  • Extensive field training

Becoming a Federal Game Warden

Federal careers as a game warden are also an option for interested candidates. These positions are with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are similar to state game warden jobs. However there are a few key differences:

  • Applicants for these federal-level positions with a bachelor’s degree in a field related to Criminal Justice or Wildlife Management will be shown preference
  • Applications are submitted through the federal employment website, for the official job title of Special Agents
  • Applicants must be between the ages of 21-36

Training, although similar in content, is also different for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents, who will need to make it through a two-phase process:

  • 20 weeks of training on criminal investigations and wildlife enforcement
  • 44 weeks of field training at locations throughout the country, one-on-one with an experienced training officer

Federal game wardens are responsible for managing areas within the state’s two wildlife refuges, the Bombay Hook and Prime Hook wildlife refuges, and can always be assigned to assist or lead multi-agency operation with their state counterparts or any other law enforcement agency in Delaware.

Wildlife Law Enforcement in Delaware

Besides wildlife law violations, game wardens deal with an assortment of people who commit violations in several other categories of criminal activity. Common fishery violations include:

  • Fishing with no license
  • Keeping undersized fish
  • Harming sharks
  • Fishing in prohibited areas

The most common boating violations are:

  • Not carrying the appropriate number of personal flotation devices
  • Children not wearing a life jacket
  • Not having a boating certificate (required for all boat operators born after 1978)
  • Having an invalid registration

Unfortunately there are plenty of criminal acts committed by persons enjoying the outdoors, the most common of which include:

  • Lewdness
  • Loitering
  • Trespassing
  • Drug and drug paraphernalia possession
  • Theft

In the most recent statistical year Delaware game wardens made 2,367 arrests.

Delaware Wildlife Officer Salary

The wildlife officers of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement are referred to as Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Enforcement Officers.

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DNREC officers may work out of the following divisions: Office of Community Services/Environmental Crimes Unit, Parks and Recreation, and Fish & Wildlife.

Delaware wildlife officers begin their careers as DNREC Enforcement Trainees, who earn between $28,062-$42,094, with a midrange salary of $35,078. From there, the ranking for these professionals is as follows:

  • DNREC Enforcement Officer I: $40,164-$48,197
  • DNREC Enforcement Officer II: $42,973-$51,568
  • DNREC Enforcement Officer III: $45,978-$55,174
  • DNREC Enforcement Officer IV: $49,200-$59,040
  • DNREC Enforcement Officer V: $52,641-$63,169
  • DNREC Regional Enforcement Officer: $51,595-$77,393
  • DNREC Chief Enforcement Officer: $59,067-$88,601

The DNREC isn’t specific regarding the process of advancing from one rank to the next; however, it does state that the salary structure is a ‘competency-based career advancement pay structure’ and that increases are earned when officers meet job requirements for skill building, full performance, and expert levels.


Salary and employment data compiled by the Delaware Employment Link – Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for DNREC enforcement 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.

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