Game wardens in Kansas, officially known as “natural resource officers” are state law enforcement officers responsible for ensuring safety in state parks and wildlife areas and enforcing the rules and regulations of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT). Their duties include:
- Providing a law enforcement presence in state parks and wildlife areas and ensuring the safety of members of the public who seek to enjoy Kansas’s natural environment
- Enforcing license and permit requirements
- Enforcing hunting, fishing, and boating regulations
- Investigating violations of KDWPT rules and regulations and criminal acts committed in state parks and wildlife areas
- Representing the KDWPT through public education programs
- Participating in park maintenance
Because Kansas’s natural resource officers are certified state law enforcement agents, they must meet high standards with respect to moral character and integrity, physical fitness, intellectual ability, and communications skills.
How to Become a Game Warden with the Kansas Department of Wildlife,
Parks, and Tourism
Prerequisites and Degree Requirements:
Applicants for natural resource officer jobs in Kansas must have a bachelor’s degree in natural resources or a related area (at its discretion, the KDWPT will substitute work experience for some part of the educational requirement).
Additionally, they must meet the following prerequisites:
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Pass a thorough background check
- Have a record free of conviction of any crime punishable by imprisonment in a federal or state prison
- Be under no legal impediments to carrying a firearm
- Pass a physical exam and submit to drug testing
Candidates for Kansas’s natural resource officer jobs must first complete a personal information registration form in order to obtain a State of Kansas Applicant ID Number. They must then submit the following materials in support of their application:
- A letter of interest
- A resume
- College transcript
- A completed Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism employment application which can be found online at the KDWPT website
- An authorization to release information to facilitate a background check
- A Kansas Tax Clearance Certificate certifying that the applicant is in compliance with Kansas state tax laws
Candidates who submit completed applications and make it through the initial screening will move on to the interview stage of the application process. Applicants selected for interviews will answer questions posed by a panel that are specific to the natural resource officer position.
Kansas Law Enforcement Training Commission:
The KDWPT requires Kansas natural resource officers to become certified law enforcement officers under the standards established by the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Commission. All natural resource officers must obtain this certification as a condition of an offer of permanent employment. To this end, new natural resource officers must undertake a basic law enforcement training program approved by Kansas Law Enforcement Training Commission.
Kansas’s natural resource officers must also satisfy a continuing education requirement by taking annual law enforcement training courses.
Becoming a Federal Game Warden in Kansas
Individuals who wish to work as game wardens also have the option of working on federal lands in Kansas as special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While Kansas’s natural resource officers protect and investigate criminal activities in state parks and wildlife areas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents in Kansas serve in National Wildlife Refuges within the state and investigate violations of federal wildlife and environmental laws affecting Kansas territory.
Individuals looking to become federal game wardens in Kansas must submit their applications directly to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and meet certain minimum requirements:
- Be between 21 and 37 years of age
- Hold a bachelor’s degree in any field, with preference given to majors related to criminal justice or wildlife management
- Submit to a background check and have a criminal record free of felony convictions
- Pass mandatory drug screening
- Meet certain standards on a battery of physical and psychological tests
As federal law enforcement agents, federal game wardens must achieve and maintain certain standards of firearm proficiency and learn the principles of criminal investigation and defensive tactics in a wildlife law enforcement context. New U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agents undergo twenty weeks of training at a special facility in Georgia in order to develop these requisite skills.
Protecting Kansas’s Natural Resources on State and Federal Lands
Kansas natural resource officers not only provide a law enforcement presence in state parks, but also enforce Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism rules and regulations in state wildlife areas. Wildlife areas are generally designated specifically for hunting and fishing and other wildlife-related activities, so they generally do not offer extensive camping facilities, although camping is often available at adjacent state parks.
For administrative purposes, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism has divided the state into five different regions with distinct ecological characteristics. The states varied wildlife regions are divided up between these five regions.
- Region 1 covers northwest Kansas, a largely rural expanse that includes the shortgrass High Plains in the extreme northwest of the state, and the Smoky Hills, characterized by mixed grass prairie, to the east as well as diverse grasslands and riparian areas. Other prominent features include the Chalk Buttes and the Blue Hills.
In terms of wildlife, the region is abundant in pronghorn, turkey, quail, and waterfowl, and offers excellent pheasant hunting. Representative of the regions public lands is Jamestown Wildlife Area in Jamestown, Kansas, a wildlife refuge and hunting area that is largely wetlands and marsh and prime destination for migratory waterfowl.
- Region 2 covers the northeast corner of Kansas and has an administrative office located in Topeka. The region encompasses the tallgrass prairie habitats of the Flint Hills Region. This region is home to the world’s largest population of greater prairie chickens and boasts excellent turkey, quail, and deer hunting. Representative wildlife areas include Clinton Wildlife Area on the Clinton Reservoir near Lawrence, Kansas, and Hillsdale Wildlife Area in Hillsdale, Kansas.
Clinton Wildlife Area is comprised of grasslands and wetlands and offers prime opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife watching with some limited camping facilities. Hillsdale Wildlife Area includes diverse habitats, including warm and cool season grasses and woodland, with a wide range of plant and tree species, including sycamore, cottonwood, hickory, eastern red cedar, plum, and dogwood.
Fishing enthusiasts will find abundant catfish, crappie, walleye, and largemouth bass. The area also offers deer, quail, and squirrel hunting, and gives birdwatchers the opportunity to observe bald eagles, warblers, hawks, and a variety of waterfowl.
- Region 3 covers southwest Kansas, which is predominantly dryland and high plains with extensive irrigation systems and native shotgrass prairie. Prominent geological features include the Arkansas River Lowlands and the Red Hills. Region 3 includes Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, which is recognized as one of the most significant wetlands areas in the world.
- Region 4 is located in south-central Kansas and encompasses the Wichita metropolitan area. This region is geographically diverse, including portions of the Smoky hills, Arkansas River Lowlands, Flint Hills, Red Hills, and Wellington/McPherson-Lowlands. Tallgrass prairie is abundant in this area.
The region also offers an astounding range of bird species, including quail, pheasants, turkeys, and prairie chickens. Within Region 4 lies the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge where wildlife watchers can observe herds of bison and elk grazing in their native prairie environment. The primary purpose of Maxwell is wildlife watching, and no camping or hunting is allowed.
- Region 5 covers southeastern Kansas and includes the Cherokee Lowlands, the Chautauqua Hills, and part of the Ozark Plateau. Habitats include bottomland forest, grasslands, and limestone bluffs. Representative wildlife areas include Fall River Wildlife Area, which offers diverse hunting opportunities, and Neosho Wildlife Area, which is primarily wetlands and serves as a refuge for migratory waterfowl.
In addition to these state wildlife areas, Kansas also offers a number of national wildlife refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
- Marais de Cygnes was founded in 1992 to protect and restore the bottomland hardwood forests surrounding the Marais de Cygnes River. The refuge also contains prairie grasslands, including native tallgrass prairies, which have been rapidly depleted in modern times. Its wildlife is notable for populations of owls, freshwater mussels, and Eastern bluebirds.
- Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, situated in the North Fork of the Solomon River in north-central Kansas, provides protected habitat for migratory waterfowl and grassland birds. Among its feathered denizens are bald eagles, greater prairie chickens, upland sandpipers, bobwhite quail, and dickcissel.
- Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Neosho River Valley in east-central Kansas. The refuge attracts thousands of migratory birds each year, including numerous species of ducks and geese. The diverse wildlife profile at Flint Hills includes populations of bobcats, coyotes, beaver, river otters, and white-tailed deer. Habitats within the refuge range from wetlands to grasslands to bottomland hardwood forest. Flint Hills also contains three types of tall grass prairie—cordgrass prairie, savanna, and upland prairie.
- Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is one of the top destinations for birdwatchers in the United States. Noted for its populations of whooping cranes and bald eagles, Quivira also hosts coyotes, muskrats, beaver, gophers, prairie dogs, and painted turtles. Quivira also contains sand prairie, one of the rarest and most unusual ecosystems on the North American continent, which combines prairie grasslands with sand dune systems.
Kansas Wildlife Officer Salary
The Kansas Department of Labor’s online information portal, the Kansas Labor Market Information Center, reported the median Kansas game warden salary to be $33,650 in 2013, which was an hourly rate of $16.18. The salary for those at the experienced end of the spectrum was 26% more at $45,620, the equivalent of $21.93 per hour.
Of interest is the fact that the highest paying area in the state for game wardens is Barton County, which is home to Great Bend. There, the annual median salary was $48,779 in 2013, which is 31% higher than the average statewide.
These salaries listed by county indicate the impact of geographic location on income. Information shown here was provided by the Kansas Labor Market Information Center in 2013:
Johnson County (Overland Park)
Wyandotte County (Kansas City)
Sedgwick County (Wichita)
In addition, the Kansas State Employment Center indicates that Natural Resource Officers, as they called, are paid on a 14-step plan:
Natural Resource Officer I
Step 4: $39,852.80
Step 7: $42,806.40
Step 10: $46,092.80
Step 13: $49,649.60
Step 16: $53,414.40
Step 18: $56,118.40