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How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in Massachusetts

While all fish and game wardens combine expertise in natural resources with law enforcement training, those in Massachusetts have a number of additional roles.  Game wardens, known as environmental police officers of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, are the primary enforcement agents for laws and regulations relating to boats and recreational vehicles.  Their educational efforts have helped to reduce boating fatalities by over 75% from the 1970s to 2000.

State game wardens patrol the inland waters, those along the coast, as well as forests and parks throughout the state.  This includes the area around Cape Cod and 45 wildlife management areas such as Birch Hill.  Federal land in Massachusetts includes 11 national wildlife refuges, including ones in Nantucket and on the Assabet River.

Poaching has been a persistent problem in Massachusetts, particularly in the western part of the Commonwealth.  From 2009 to 2012, the Commonwealth recorded 2,419 incidents of poaching.  This is probably an underestimate, since the federal government reports that more than 90% of poaching goes unreported.

Game wardens in Massachusetts have been able to make high profile arrests of deer and bear poachers in western Massachusetts.  In 2006, a man from Montague with a prior offense for poaching was fined $7,500 for poaching deer.  In addition to hunting after the season had ended, he was charged with using an artificial light.

The environmental police work closely with other state agencies as part of the Environmental Crimes Strike Force.  This involves working undercover to investigate crimes such as illegally disposing of hazardous and solid waste and violating the statutes for the protection of wetlands.

Becoming a Game Warden for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts sets high standards for those seeking jobs as environmental police officers.  In addition to meeting several basic requirements, applicants must have either a substantial amount of experience or college credits.

These requirements are described below.

Basic Requirements:

  • Being at least 21 years old
  • Not having any felony convictions
  • Having a high school education
  • Possessing a valid Massachusetts Class D driver’s license by the time of appointment
  • Being able to qualify for a Firearms Class A license

Experience Requirement:

At least two years of full-time or the equivalent part-time experience in one of the following or a related area:

  • Biological or environmental science
  • Conservation law enforcement
  • Ecology
  • Forestry
  • Marine science
  • Natural resources conservation or management
  • Wildlife or fisheries conservation or management

Education Substitution Permitted: 

Applicants can substitute relevant types of education for the required experience.  Two years of education (30 semester hours or the equivalent) will substitute for one year of experience.

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Thus, an associate’s degree can substitute for one year of experience, while a bachelor’s or higher degree can substitute for two years if the degree is in one of the following or a related field:

  • Biology
  • Conservation law enforcement
  • Ecology
  • Forestry
  • Management of:
    • Fisheries
    • Natural Resources
    • Wildlife
    • Oceanography

Civil Service Examination and Training: 

To start the application process and become a game warden for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, all applicants must first pass the civil service examination for Environmental Police Officer A & B when it is offered.

Candidates who score highly on the civil service exam and are appointed as full time environmental police officers must go through two phases of training that are described below:

    • Law enforcement training:
      • Training at a police academy approved by the Municipal Police Training Committee

 

  • Lifesaving training:
    • Successfully completing an American Red Cross or YMCA program
    • Approved by the Massachusetts Environmental Police Office of Law Enforcement

 

Becoming a Federal Game Warden in Massachusetts

Those seeking federal game warden jobs in Massachusetts must meet the U.S. Fish and Game Service requirements to qualify as “special agents.”  These requirements are described in more detail below:

Basic Requirements:

  • Having a valid driver’s license
  • Age requirement of being 21-36 years old
    • Older veterans and federal law enforcement officers may be able to apply
    • Selective service registration

Educational Requirement:

  • At least four years of a college education in a field such as:
    • Police science
    • Criminal justice
    • Wildlife management

Training Processes:

    • Training to become LEOs:
      • FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Program)—22 weeks

 

  • Game warden training:
    • On the job training—44 weeks at the first post of duty


Massachusetts Wildlife Officer Salary

The median fish and game warden salary in Massachusetts as reported by the Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development in 2013 was $47,070, which is the equivalent of $22.63 per hour. Of note is the fact that professionals at the experienced level have been reported to earn an average of $55,690 per year, which is 15.4% higher than the statewide median.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports the most experienced game wardens in Massachusetts, those in the top ten percent, average $69,610 per year in 2013, which is an average of $33.47 per hour.

The table below denotes additional salary information as published by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2013:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy MA-NH
40
39860
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy MA NECTA Division
30
44330
Providence-Fall River-Warwick RI-MA
40
67130

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