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How to Become a Fish and Game Warden in New Mexico

One hundred game wardens worked in New Mexico in 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This includes conservation officers for the Law Enforcement Division of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, along with game wardens from the federal government’s Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.

State game wardens in New Mexico are certified peace officers with a great deal of expertise in wildlife and fish management and the investigation of wildlife crimes.  As law enforcement officials, these fish and game wardens are primarily responsible for enforcing the following suite of laws in New Mexico:

  • Game, Fish, and Outdoor Recreation (Chapter 17)
  • Off-highway vehicle and related ones (Chapter 66)
  • Criminal trespass
  • Negligent use of a firearm
  • Littering

New Mexico has a great diversity of wildlife, since it has habitats ranging from the desert to alpine habitats.  The high degree of knowledge and professionalism demonstrated by the state’s game wardens helps them to protect this heritage through both education and law enforcement initiatives.  As wildlife experts, New Mexico game wardens have the following roles:

  • Game and fish managers
  • Youth mentors and educators
  • Nuisance wildlife experts
  • Wildlife surveyors

Crimes against wildlife, including poaching, have been a persistent problem throughout New Mexico’s history.  One high profile case from 2006 involved the spree killing of antelope by two men who were traveling from Idaho to Texas.

Thanks to a tip from an anonymous informant, game wardens were able to arrest the men.  In addition to their serious poaching crime, the men had fired rifles along a highway, posing a grave threat to members of the public.  The pair received jail time and penalties of over $10,000.

Joining the Law Enforcement Division of the New Mexico Department of Game
and Fish

The requirements to become a game warden for the state of New Mexico and the federal government differ quite a bit and are shown below.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish sets high standards for those who seek jobs as state fish and game wardens.  Those pursuing game warden jobs can apply at the website of the state’s Personnel Office.  Positions are posted online for approximately three weeks, and applicants must apply during this time frame.

Basic Requirements:

    • Not having any of the following convictions:
      • Felony
      • Domestic violence
      • DWI
        • Multiple
        • Within the past three years


  • Being current on payments for child support
  • Being eligible to maintain and keep a New Mexico driver’s license

Educational Requirement:

  • A bachelor’s degree in one of the following fields
    • Agricultural science
    • Animal science
    • Biology
    • Criminal justice
    • Ecology
    • Environmental science
    • Fisheries science or management
    • Forestry
    • Forestry management
    • Natural resource science or management
    • Range science or management
    • Wildlife law enforcement
    • Wildlife science or management
    • Zoology

Hiring Process:

    • Initial steps:
      • A physical test
        • Applicants must meet the physical standards for entering the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy
      • A background questionnaire


    • Interview by a committee that examines job related areas:
      • General knowledge
      • Ability
      • Skills


  • Background check


    • Law enforcement:
      • Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Fe for 21 weeks


  • Department of Game and Fish
    • Rookie School Training for 4 weeks
    • Firearms training for 2 weeks
    • Field training with a Training Officer for 1 year


New Mexico Game Wardens Working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The requirements to become a federal game warden include meeting the basic standards for becoming a federal law enforcement officer.

Basic Requirements:

  • Being 21 to 36 years old
  • Having a valid driver’s license
  • Being a U.S. citizen
  • Being registered with the selective service

Educational Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in one of the following or a related field:
    • Wildlife management
    • Criminal justice

Training Requirements:

    • Law enforcement:
      • FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) for 20 weeks


  • On duty training:
    • Field Training and Evaluation Program at the first post for 44 weeks


New Mexico’s Pioneering Toll Free Hotline for Wildlife Crime

After research into the seriousness of poaching in New Mexico, the state started offering a toll-free hotline for citizens to report poaching and other crimes involving wildlife.  The New Department of Game and Fish pioneered its crime-stoppers program for wildlife crime based on the crime-stoppers program of the Albuquerque Police Department.  Operation Game Thief started in 1977 and became a model for similar programs throughout the country.

The toll-free number is available round the clock.  All calls are confidential, and tipsters have the option of remaining anonymous.  Although many people do not accept a reward, one is offered if a poacher is issued a citation or arrested based on information from the call.  The Game and Fish department offers rewards in the following amounts:

  • $750 – elk and bighorn sheep
  • $500 – deer and onyx
  • $350 – antelope
  • $250 – other species

Officials were able to solve the following cases from early 2014 based on calls to this hotline:

  • A turkey:  unlawful hunting and possession
  • Spike deer and turkey:  illegal killing in a Game Management Unit

New Mexico Wildlife Officer Salary

Labor Analysis Statistics & Economic Research, typically known simply as LASER, is an interactive tool provided by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions to provide details on earnings for various employment classifications in the state. According to LASER, the median New Mexico game warden salary was $41,820 in 2013. Those who are considered experienced earned an average of roughly 14.5% more at $48,864. The starting salary for game wardens in New Mexico that year was $31,931.

The New Mexico State Personnel Office identifies three occupational rank levels among game wardens, in addition to a supervisory role, and reported their salaries for 2013 as follows:

Game & Fish Warden – B

Minimum: $25,497
Midpoint: $35,413
Maximum: $45,329
Game & Fish Warden – O

Minimum: $27,959
Midpoint: $38,831
Maximum: $49,704
Game & Fish Warden – A

Minimum: $30,892
Midpoint: $42,906
Maximum: $54,920
Game & Fish Warden Supervisor

Minimum: $34,389
Midpoint: $47,763
Maximum: $61,136

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