Game wardens in Tennessee, also known as Wildlife Officers, work as part of the state Wildlife Resources Agency to ensure Tennessee’s natural treasures and those who harvest them are safe and acting within the laws. It is understandable that hunters would be tempted to break the law by failing to wear safety-colored clothing. What is less forgivable is when heavily armed hunters trespass on restricted military territory for hunting, such as sometimes occurs at Fort Campbell, where they may encounter live fire and unexploded mortar shells.
Dealing with hunters that break the law, poachers, polluters, and intoxicated or unlicensed boaters is just some of what Tennessee’s game wardens deal with daily.
Candidates who are interested in serving the wildlife and residents of the state through game warden jobs in Tennessee can start by reviewing the application process.
Becoming a Fish and Game Warden with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
Satisfy Job Requirements – Tennessee’s Wildlife Officers are some of the best and brightest public servants the state has to offer. Part of the explanation for this starts with the high bar the Wildlife Resources Agency sets for minimum game warden job requirements.
Important among these is education. All game wardens must have a bachelor’s degree in one of the following subjects:
- Wildlife Management
- Fisheries Management
- Wildlife Biology
- 20 semester hours in wildlife-related subjects plus one of the following:
- Animal Sciences
- Agricultural Sciences
For candidates considering federal game warden careers, the government personnel office gives a preference to those with a bachelor degree in a field related to Wildlife Management or Criminal Justice.
Prospective applicants must also meet some other basic requirements:
- Willingness and ability to carry or use firearms
- Be US citizens at least 21 years old
- If previous military service, must have an honorable discharge
Submitting an Application – The employing department for game wardens in the state is the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. However initial applications must be filed online through the state Department of Human Resources. Applications are accepted through the Wildlife Officer job description and may only be filed when there is a vacant opening. Applicants can sign up to be notified by email when Wildlife Officer positions become available. Hiring usually starts towards the end of July or beginning of August each year.
If applicants make it to the later stages of the hiring process, they will need to complete:
- Interview with officials from the Wildlife Resources Agency
- Comprehensive personal history background investigation
- Physical and psychological evaluation
Game Warden Training – Those who successfully make it through the application process will proceed with their training. New officers will learn the essential skills of how to become a game warden over the course of a eight weeks at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, followed by a year of probation with the Wildlife Resources Agency. Game warden training includes:
- 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
- State and federal wildlife laws and regulations
- Firearms training
- Law enforcement techniques
- Evidence preservation and gathering
- Courtroom procedures
- Use of law enforcement equipment
After their first year of employment, Wildlife Officers will need to participate in an additional 40 hours of refresher training annually.
Becoming a Federal Fish and Game Warden in Tennessee
Federal fish and game wardens also operate across Tennessee in a supplementary role alongside their counterparts with the state Wildlife Resources Agency. These federal officers go through an entirely different application and training process, although there are many similarities between the two systems.
Known officially as US Fish and Wildlife Office Special Agents, the federal process for becoming a fish and game warden starts by meeting the minimum requirements. These are similar to the state requirements. Applicants must be between the ages of 21-36, and as mentioned earlier, applicants will be given a preference if they have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to Criminal Justice or Wildlife Management.
After completing the application process, those selected for hire will ship out to Glynco, Georgia to complete 20 weeks of game warden training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Next they will complete an additional 44 weeks of field training before they receive their first assignment.
Duties of a Wildlife Officer in Tennessee
When they are not conducting public education campaigns or being trained on the latest technology in their field, Wildlife Officers can preoccupy themselves with snagging the ever-present problem of wildlife poaching. Two recent cases involve:
- Action against five men who were discovered in an unregistered pickup along a dark road on Evensville Mountain. They were witnessed shining a spotlight into the brush in an alleged attempt to poach deer. A Wildlife Officer arrested three of the men who were not cooperative on charges related to poaching and cited the two other more cooperative men for spotlighting. Officers discovered a loaded SKS semi-automatic rifle and a 7mm Mauser rifle.
- Charges against three men related to trespassing and poaching, stemming from their illegal activities in Fort Campbell. The men allegedly shot dozens of big-game trophy deer within the confines of Fort Campbell, a restricted military zone protected by a fence. The 100,000-plus acres of the fort are used for mortar practice and live-fire training. The fact that the facility is fenced and hunting is not allowed has also made it a refuge for large deer.
Tennessee Wildlife Officer Salary
The wildlife officers of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Law Enforcement Division work out of four regional offices, each of which consists of two districts.
Salary ranges for wildlife officers are as follows:
- Wildlife officer: $38,616 – $59,964
- Wildlife manager 1: $38,616-$59,964
- Wildlife manager 2: $44,064-$56,244
- Wildlife manager 3: $50,280-$64,188
- Wildlife Manager 4: $54,912-$70,092
- Wildlife Manager 5: $65,484-$83,592
Salary and employment data compiled by the Tennessee State Government – https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/hr/documents/April2018_AlphaCompPlan.pdf. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of employment for wildlife 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 August 2019.