The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement works tirelessly to protect our nation’s wildlife resources through its comprehensive conservation, education and enforcement efforts.
The Office of Law Enforcement focuses on the effective enforcement of federal laws that are designed to defend against the many threats against our nation’s wildlife resources, including:
- Illegal trade
- Environmental hazards
- Habitat destruction
- Unlawful commercial exploitation
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Scope of Authority and Jurisdiction
The Service’s Office of Law Enforcement regulates the wildlife trade, investigates wildlife crimes, and teams up with international, tribal, state and federal partners to conserve wildlife resources. The work of the Office of Law Enforcement is accomplished by its exceptional team of special agents and wildlife inspectors.
The special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work as plainclothes criminal investigators who have the authority to enforce federal wildlife laws throughout the United States. The majority of special agents work throughout the United States by report to either the national headquarters, which is located in Arlington, Virginia, or to one of the Service’s eight regional law enforcement offices:
- Pacific Region (located in Portland, Oregon): Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and the Pacific Trust territories
- Southwest Region (located in Albuquerque, New Mexico): Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas
- Midwest Region (located in Bloomington, Minnesota): Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin
- Southeast Region (located in Atlanta, Georgia): Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
- Northeast Region (located in Hadley, Massachusetts): Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia
- Mountain-Prairie Region (located in Denver, Colorado): Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming
- Alaska Region (located in Anchorage, Alaska): Alaska
- Pacific Southwest Region (located in Sacramento, California): California and Nevada
The job duties of the Service’s special agents include:
- Breaking up domestic and international smuggling rings targeting endangered species
- Protecting wildlife and their habitats from environmental hazards
- Enforcing federal regulations regarding migratory game bird hunting
- Preventing the illegal commercial exploitation of U.S. resources
- Partnering with states to protect game species while preserving legal hunting opportunities
- Inspecting wildlife shipments to detect the presence of illegal trade and ensure regulations are followed
- Partnering with international agencies as to combat the illegal trafficking of endangered species
- Training tribal, state and federal foreign law enforcement officers
- Analyzing evidence and solving wildlife crimes using forensic science
- Conducting outreach programs that focus on the compliance of wildlife protection laws
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Job Requirements
Just around 250 special agents work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making these positions very competitive. Special agents are usually hired in groups of about 24 at a time. The Service issues a national vacancy announcement through the Office of Personnel Management (www.usajobs.gov) when looking to hire a new group of special agent recruits.
Minimum requirements for U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent jobs include:
- Must be a United States citizen
- Must be at least 21 years old, but no older than 36 years old
- Must have a valid state driver’s license
- Must be willing to accept reassignment to any location throughout their careers
Individuals who want to learn how to become a special agent with the Service must be able to meet strict medical, physical, and psychological requirements, and they must be able to pass a comprehensive background investigation. A medical examination and a number of physical fitness tests must be completed by candidates.
Although not a requirement, a four-year bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, wildlife management, or a related field is preferred by the Service.
A wildlife management bachelor’s degree, for example, prepares individuals to conserve and manage wilderness resources for recreational, commercial, and ecological purposes. Topics of study in these programs typically include:
- Environmental science
- Natural resources management
- Wildlife biology
- Outdoor recreation and parks management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Training Requirements
All new special agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must successfully complete 20 weeks of formal training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. FLETC training for special agent recruits includes criminal investigations and wildlife law enforcement training.
Basic training topics for new special agents include:
- Case report writing
- Crime scene investigation
- Electronics surveillance
- Rules of evidence
- Waterfowl identification
Training specific to the Criminal Investigator Training Program includes:
- Vehicle handling skills
- Tactical training
- Physical techniques and conditioning
- Physical evidence
- Legal training
- Criminal case management
Upon completion of basic training, all new agents must then complete 44 weeks of the Service’s Field Training and Evaluation Program, during which time they work under the close supervision of experienced training officers as to hone their skills and knowledge in both criminal investigations and wildlife laws.