Hawaii is one of the most environmentally diverse states in the US. Its natural beauty and wildlife creates a huge area of responsibility for game wardens, as they must enforce laws and provide and promote safety across:
- 3 million acres of ocean waters
- 410,000 acres of coral reef
- 23,000 acres of inland water
- The largest tropical rainforest in the US
- The 11th largest state forest in the country including more than a million acres of hunting land
- 2 million acres of conservation land
- More than a million acres of state-owned lands
Game wardens in Hawaii work for the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) under the auspices of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). They are typically referred to as DOCARE Officers or CREO (Conservation and Resource Enforcement Officer).
The DLNR oversees watersheds, forest reserves, state parks and historic sites, natural area reserves, and public lands, waters, and other resources. The three main categories these officers focus on include public safety, natural resource protection, and preventative enforcement through public education and community outreach.
Areas of specific concern for DOCARE include ensuring sustainability and combating the ongoing perception that the natural resources of the state are unlimited and can withstand unregulated pressure and usage. Education and enforcement is also needed when practices brought by newcomers conflict with the local laws and management practices. Increased population numbers and the addition or expansion of public resource areas also increases the need for conservation enforcement and education.
Joining the Hawaii Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement
Game wardens in Hawaii, or DOCARE Officers or CREOs, have an interesting and challenging work environment that includes mountains, shoreline, and even areas of the Pacific Ocean that surround each of the eight main islands that make up the archipelago of Hawaii. They may be called upon to patrol these areas by foot, ATVs, boat, helicopter, or other modes of transportation.
DOCARE Officers have full police powers and can issue warnings and citations, make arrests, and testify in court. They also provide safety and educational information to the public in an effort to promote safe and responsible use of Hawaii’s abundant natural resources.
To become a CREO in the state of Hawaii, applicants must go through the recruitment process conducted by the State Recruiting Office of the Department of Human Resources Development. This requires the submission of a civil service job application and meeting the public employment law requirements. Information about job openings can be found here.
Applicants must be legal residents of Hawaii at the time of application. Applicants who do not currently live in Hawaii must take steps to demonstrate intent of becoming a legal resident by:
- Filing a Hawaii state income tax return as a resident
- Registering to vote in local elections
- Designating Hawaii as your legal residence in legal documents
Experience and Degree Requirements:
For entry-level positions, two years of general experience (GE) that demonstrates the applicant’s ability to read and comprehend complex material, write clear and factual reports, meet and deal effectively with people and understand and apply rules and regulations in a work environment are required.
The general experience requirement can be substituted with a combination of work and/or education experience as listed below:
- High school or equivalent graduation (1 yr GE)
- Completion of 15 semester credit hours (6 mo. GE)
- Associate’s degree in police science (2 yr GE)
- Completion of 2 years of college including 24 credit hours of law enforcement (2 yr GE)
Applicants must also:
- Meet federal and state requirements regarding the possession and use of firearms
- Possess a valid Hawaii driver’s license
- Have no convictions of domestic violence
- Be able to swim 300 yards within 3 minutes
- Be able to hike one mile within 20 minutes
The State of Hawaii has no standard training requirements for basic police training, which leaves the specific education and training to the discretion of the individual departments. Typically any training will commence after being hired and passing physical fitness requirements and medical exams. Training is often considered to be part of the job and usually focuses on skills and equipment used.
Becoming a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent in Hawaii
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement is a specialized group of police officers who work to protect threatened and endangered species of wildlife, including migratory birds, marine mammals, land mammals, and other imperiled animals. They investigate violations of federal wildlife laws and crimes such as smuggling, illegal hunting and destruction of habitats, and other illegal activities associated with wildlife.
Requirements and training for Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are much more stringent than those of the state of Hawaii. To qualify, applicants must meet specific medical, physical, and psychological requirements, and a four-year degree in wildlife management or criminal justice is preferred. For more information about how to become a US Fish and Wildlife Special Agent, visit their website.
Hawaii’s geographic location, climate, and environmental composition and position as “gateway” to the Pacific rim give provide a unique challenge for resource management and protection, as well as regulation of international wildlife trade. Hawaii has 317 species listed as endangered or threatened.
Special Agents work closely with Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resource Conservation and Resource Enforcement Officers to protect the natural resources of the state and region.
Hawaii has several national parks that contain habitats for endangered species of plants and animals. USFW Special Agents would be called in for investigation and prosecution of rules and laws broken in these parks. Examples include:
- Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
- Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park (Hawaii)
- Haleakala National Park (Maui)
These and other natural resources are protected because of their unique characteristics, as well as their fragile ecosystems that could be damaged by illegal activity.
Hunting and Fishing in Hawaii
Hawaii has native and non-native species of plants, animals, and fish. Because it is so far from other land, most endemic species arrived via the wind, waves, or wings (birds and insects). Various fish species from other habitats have been deliberately or accidentally introduced to Hawaii. Some non-native species include:
- Largemouth bass
- Channel catfish
- Rainbow trout
A fishing license is required for freshwater game fishing, but there is no marine recreational fishing license requirement.
Hawaii offers a variety of interesting game animals for hunting. This includes feral pig, goat, and sheep; several species of deer, and several types of pheasant. Hunting requires a license.
Popular places to hunt and fish include:
- Kokee State Park (Kauai)
- Wahiawa Freshwater State Recreation Area (Oahu)
- Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area (Maui)
- Mauna Kea State Recreation Area (Hawaii)
Hawaii Wildlife Officer Salary
Hawaii’s wildlife officers within the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) are most commonly referred to as DOCARE officers or Conservation and Resource Enforcement Officers (CREO).
As of 2018, the salary schedule for DOCARE officers was:
- Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer I: $38,364-$61,452
- Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer II: $41,544-$66,444
- Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer III: $44,892-$71,964
- Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer IV: $48,588-$77,796
- Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officer V: $52,572-$84,180
Recruitment efforts for DOCARE officers remains strong in Hawaii. As of 2019, there were 130 DOCARE officer positions, but about 30 of them were vacant.
Salary and employment data compiled by the Hawaii Department of Human Resources Development and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) – https://dhrd.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Compensation-Plan-April-2018.pdf. 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.