There is only one state with more national forests and lands than Oregon. It is because of the state’s vast natural beauty and wildlife that so many resources are directed towards its protection. In Oregon, game wardens are actually a branch of the Oregon State Police.
One wildlife biologist with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Division recently pointed out that across the state more animals are illegally poached than are hunted with the proper permits.
Joining the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Division
Enhancing Credentials – Whether at the state or federal level, demonstrating some foundational knowledge in a field related to law enforcement or wildlife management can provide many advantages for a candidate’s career trajectory. Raises, rank, and promotions can all be tied in with the applicant’s level of education.
Bachelor’s degrees in any of the following subjects will improve the credentials considered in the application process, and are preferred for federal game wardens:
- Criminal Justice
- Wildlife Management
- Law Enforcement
- Land Management
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Natural Sciences
Basic Qualifications – Candidates who are interested in becoming Oregon game wardens will first have to become Oregon State Troopers. The Oregon State Police has a Fish and Wildlife Division for troopers who want to serve and protect the wildlife of the state.
This means that the next step towards game warden jobs in Oregon begins by meeting the minimum requirements to become a state trooper:
- Be a US citizen at least 21 years of age with a valid driver’s license
- Have a record of a good, moral character
- Have no significant criminal convictions, such as misdemeanors involving moral turpitude or felonies
- Have a good driving record
- No illegal drug use in the past 10 years (three years for marijuana)
Applying – The Oregon State Police provides updates on its recruitment webpage about the latest trooper job developments. Applicants may also elect to receive job notifications about public safety and law enforcement positions through the state human resources department.
After an application is made, candidates will be contacted by a recruiter if they have made a viable application. If chosen, they will then proceed through the hiring process which includes:
- Physical fitness exam, including sit-ups, push-ups, and a two mile run
- Timed written test, assessing a high school graduate level in mathematics, reading, and writing
- Oral board interview
- Psychological evaluation
- Background investigation
- Medical examination
- Final interview
Completing Training – There are actually three levels of training involved to become a game warden in Oregon: pre-academy trooper training, Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST), and specialized game warden training.
Pre-Academy training is required of all newly hired state troopers start with, provided by the Oregon State Police. Throughout the course of four weeks, new recruits will focus on what is termed First Responder training, which includes:
- 32 hours of medical training
- 26 hours of defensive tactics
- 40 hours of firearm training
- 16 hours of verbal communication
This Oregon Public Safety Academy is mandatory for all state troopers, and is sponsored by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Alongside city and county law enforcement officers from across the state, new hires will need to graduate from this 16-week academy to earn the title State Trooper. Training includes:
- Law enforcement technology
- Courtroom procedures
- Report writing and communications
- Emergency management chain of command
- Illegal substance identification
- Evidence collection and preservation
Upon graduation from the DPSST Academy, new recruits will become Oregon State Troopers. The next step is to pursue a specialization with the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Oregon State Police. Becoming a game warden officer, officially known as a Fish and Wildlife Division Trooper or Officer, merits specialized training in areas such as:
- Boat operations
- Environmental crime investigation
- Federal wildlife laws
- Meat handling and inspection
- Restaurant and dealer inspection
- Horse packing
- Outdoor survival and navigation
Considering Federal Game Warden Jobs
Aside from the option of becoming a game warden at the state level with the Oregon State Police, federal game wardens also help to protect the wildlife of the state.
Federal game warden requirements for employment are similar to those at the state level, with a variation in the age requirement mandating that applicants must be between the ages of 21-36. The federal personnel office also prefers candidates with at least a bachelor degree in a relevant subject.
Applications are submitted through the federal USA Jobs website by searching for the Service Special Agent position listed through the US Fish and Wildlife Office.
Training for federal game wardens takes place in two phases. The first amounts to 20 weeks of wildlife law enforcement and criminal investigations training at the Glynco, Georgia Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Next new federal game wardens will complete 44 weeks working in the field alongside a specialized training officer.
High-Tech Tools to Track Poachers
Game wardens, be they at the federal or state level, play an important role in Oregon. A common way of catching poachers involves a state patrol air unit flying a mile above one of Oregon’s many forest using night vision goggles to spot the searchlights of illegal hunters. Once a spotlight is discovered, the air unit will radio the GPS location to a game warden on the ground. Two recent suspects were caught using this technique, literally red-handed, with two illegally poached deer in the trunk of their truck.
Other recent busts made by game wardens include:
- Three young men who were convicted of poaching 16 deer and two elk in the Sisters area
- Three other men accused of poaching elk near Tillamook
- Two Eugene residents who were recently convicted of poaching deer and elk. Evidence against them included:
- 1,600 pounds of wild game meat
- 18 hunting rifles
- 108 sets of antlers
Oregon Wildlife Officer Salary
In Oregon state, game wardens are actually Oregon State Police Troopers that work within the Fish and Wildlife Regulation Division. As such, they get paid according to a set of pay steps created by the state government that awards monthly base salaries constructed around a worker’s length of employment. Here are the details of those pay steps:
- First Step—Upon Hire: $4,965 to $5,310
- Second Step—6 Months: $5,213 to $5,575
- Third Step—1 Year: $5,473 to $5,853
- Fourth Step—2 Years: $5,748 to $6,147
- Fifth Step—3 Years: $6,035 to $6,454
- Sixth Step—4 Years: $6,337 to $6,777
- Seventh Step—5 Years: $6,654 to $7,116
In addition to this escalating salary based on time in, wildlife officers get access to impressive benefits including personal days and sick leave, retirement plan, vacation accrual, all duty related equipment and a paid leave program.
The state also offers pay bumps to wildlife officers that pursue more education and credentials, including:
- 3%: Associate degree or intermediate DPSST certification
- 6%: Bachelor’s degree or advanced DPSST certification
- Possible 5% differential for foreign language proficiency
- 5%: ACTAR certification
- 5%: OSP SWAT member
Salary and employment data compiled by theOregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for fish and game wardens.
Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment andfor workers at all levels of education and experience. It does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
Salary data accessed in July 2019.