Idaho boasts a rugged, largely unspoiled natural landscape that includes mountainous regions, lakes, canyons, and whitewater rapids. The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area provides over two million acres of protected wilderness. Idaho is also a Rocky Mountain state, offering snow-capped mountains and forest. The rushing waters of the Snake River winds through Hells Canyon and creates the deepest gorge in the US.
Fish and game wardens in Idaho, called Fish and Game Conservation Officers, are charged with protecting and policing the natural resources of the state, including wildlife. The principal activities of Idaho Conservation Officers include enforcing laws and regulations regarding wildlife and assisting other law enforcement agencies as needed. They also manage fish and game populations, which involves activities such as collecting biological data, conducting wildlife population studies, and evaluating impacts of habitat manipulation on wildlife; and providing information and education for the public through teaching safety classes, writing articles, and speaking at meetings.
How to Become a Conservation Officer in Idaho
Degree Requirements and Other Qualifications:
- Have a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management or a similar field
- Knowledge of fish and wildlife management practices
- Experience with gathering, assessing, and reporting biological information
- Willingness to participate and interact with hunting and fishing activities
- Meet the entrance requirements for the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Academy and complete POST certification
Conservation Officers in Idaho are fully trained law enforcement officers who receive additional training in fish and game field enforcement. Although they primarily enforce wildlife laws, they are authorized to issue citations, obtain warrants, make arrests, and testify in court as needed.
Game warden jobs in Idaho typically involve patrolling more than 1,000 square miles of rugged, diverse land. They may travel via snow machines, horseback, watercraft, or all-terrain vehicles, depending on the nature of their patrol area and tasks on a given day. Applicants who are interested in becoming a Conservation Officer need to have an interest in and practical experience with fishing and hunting, as this will allow easier interaction with the human hunters and anglers with whom they come into contact, as well as a ready knowledge of wildlife habits and habitats.
Conservation Officers often work alone in remote areas, so they must have the physical ability to walk in rugged terrain, use various forms of transportation depending on the terrain, work in extreme weather conditions, and lift and carry up to 100 pounds.
Post Certification and Physical Readiness Test:
Applicants can be hired prior to receiving their POST certification, but they must go through the training before assignment to a field office. Applicants to POST must:
- Be a US citizen
- Have a high school diploma
- Undergo a thorough background investigation
- Sit for a personal interview
- Have no record of a pattern of conduct that would jeopardize the public trust in law enforcement
Applicants would also need to pass the Idaho Physical Readiness Test to verify their physical ability to perform the rigors of the job.
- Grand Canyon University - B.S. in Justice Studies and M.S. in Criminal Justice
- SNHU - Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
- 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
Requirements to Become a Special Agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Special Agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are law enforcement officers who work to enforce federal wildlife laws, investigate crimes against wildlife, and arrest and prosecute those who break these laws. They target crimes such as trafficking, habitat destruction, and smuggling. These agents often work closely with state law enforcement agencies to combat crime and protect our natural resources.
To become a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special agent, you must meet strict qualifications, including:
- US citizen
- 21-37 years of age
- valid driver’s license
- excellent health (physical, psychological, medical)
- bachelor’s degree in wildlife management or similar field (preferred)
More information about becoming a Special Agent can be found here.
In Idaho, Special Agents often work on issues related to the Endangered Species Act, such as those involving the Grey Wolf, Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle, and other wildlife, including fish and migratory birds.
Fishing and Hunting in Idaho
Since one of the main responsibilities of an Idaho Conservation Officer is to enforce fish and wildlife protection laws, they would need to know about the various types of wildlife available in the state as well as where to find them.
Hunting in Idaho includes big game, waterfowl, and upland game species such as:
- Mountain lion
- Common snipe
Idaho has 32 Wildlife Management Areas ranging in size from 275 to 85,000 acres. These areas have been established to protect wildlife habitats and provide public enjoyment of wildlife hunting and fishing.
Fishing opportunities abound in Idaho, as there are many lakes, streams, and rivers. Popular areas for fishing include the Selway, Snake, Clearwater, and Salmon rivers. Silver Creek, the Henrys Fork, and the South Fork of the Snake River are world renowned for fly-fishing. Idaho offers more than 40 game fish species including:
- Cutthroat trout
- Chinook salmon
- Smallmouth and Largemouth bass
- White sturgeon
Idaho Wildlife Officer Salary
The conservation officers of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Bureau of Enforcement begin their careers as trainees who, as of 2019, earn $18.04/hr.
Once the first-year probationary period (2,080 worked hours) is complete, which also includes completing the POST Academy and the Department’s Field Training and Evaluation Program (FTEP), trainees are eligible for upgrade to the rank of Conservation Officer, Senior, which comes with a starting salary of $22.81/hr., or $47,444 annually.
The Department usually announces openings for conservation officers once a year by posting it on their website. The number of vacancies vary from one year to the next depending on retirements and other attrition factors.
The Department employs conservation officers by region, with each region having one program manager, one regional investigator, 2-2 district conservation officers (first-line supervisors), and 4-7 senior conservation officers. The regions are as follows:
- Panhandle Region: 16 officers
- Clearwater Region: 15 officers
- Magic Valley Region: 15 officers
- Southeast Region: 13 officers
- Upper Snake Region: 15 officers
- Salmon Region: 9 officers
Salary and employment data compiled by the Idaho Fish and Game Enforcement –https://idfg.idaho.gov/enforcement. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for conservation 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.