A game warden’s standard patrol district in Utah covers over 1,500 square miles, considerably larger than that of most law enforcement officers. Officially known as conservation officers who work for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, every day these dedicated game wardens educate the public on wildlife laws and safety regulations while at the same time keeping a lookout for illegal hunters.
Conservation officers must be prepared for anything, as Utah’s vast wilderness areas, five national forests, and wide array of wild animals attract both responsible appreciators of nature as well as opportunistic poachers.
Those who would like to work on the side of the state’s wildlife laws can learn more about how to become a game warden in Utah by following the process detailed below.
Conservation Officers with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Getting a Bachelor’s Degree – Game warden jobs with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources requires candidates that meet the minimum employment qualifications. In Utah, game warden requirements are set forth as follows:
- Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in:
- Wildlife Science
- Any other related field
- A minor in Biology combined with a major in:
- Criminal Justice
- Law Enforcement
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Have previous work experience dealing with natural resources
- Be in good physical shape
- Be able to demonstrate a good, moral personal record
Completing the Application Process – Once candidates are qualified they will need to navigate a highly selective application process the proceeds through the following steps:
- An online application through the state’s employment website. Here applicants can sign up to be notified about conservation officer openings and create an online account. Applications may only be submitted when there is an advertised conservation officer vacancy within the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
- Comprehensive background investigation
- Physical fitness test with portions covering:
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Muscular endurance
- Strength and flexibility
- Written test for basic reading, writing, and problem-solving skills
- Oral board interview with a biologist and four conservation officers
- Polygraph, psychological, and medical exams
Game Warden Training in Utah – Only the most qualified and competitive applicants will be chosen for hire, at which point they must prepare to complete two stages of game warden training. The first portion covers basic law enforcement procedures and tactics. Conservation officer trainees will complete this at the Salt Lake City Police Academy along with other law enforcement officers serving in city and county positions. Upon graduation after 13 weeks, new officers will have earned Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST)-Certification. Training includes:
- Canine tracking
- Defensive tactics
- Vehicle operations
- Arrest and pursuit procedures
- Laws and regulations
- Evidence collection and preservation
Next, new game warden trainees will spend three months in the Field Training Officer program. It is at this stage where cadets will learn the ins and outs of being a conservation officer. Training will cover:
- State and federal wildlife laws
- Field technology
- Fishing, boating, and hunting regulations
- Poaching evidence collection
- Courtroom procedures
- Suspect pursuit over variable terrain
Federal Fish and Game Wardens
As opposed to state-level conservation officers, there are also federal-level game wardens. The process to become a federal fish and game warden in Utah is completely separate from jobs at the state level, however the minimum requirements and training are similar. Key differences are:
- Federal game wardens work under the US Fish and Wildlife Service Office
- Applicants are preferred to have a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice, Wildlife Management, or a related field
- Applicants must be between the ages of 21-36
- Applications for these positions are made through the official job title Service Special Agents with the US Fish and Wildlife Service Office, posted on the USA Jobs website
- Training takes place over 64 weeks, with an initial 20 spent on basic law enforcement in Georgia, followed by 40 weeks spent partnered with an experienced field training officer
Working for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Although life as a Utah-based game warden can be fulfilling and enjoyable, officers must also be prepared for emotionally challenging situations. An all-to-familiar sight for conservation officers are decapitated animals killed and left to decompose so their heads could be displayed as trophies, or worse, simply for fun and. Poachers may also hunt out of necessity for food, however it is always illegal to hunt out of season and without the proper permit. Recent game warden activity in Utah has involved:
A 17-count indictment filed against two men for illegally capturing and injuring mountain lions and bobcats in Utah. Their scheme involved capturing the big cats, maiming their paws, and then releasing them in time to coincide with a guided party of hunters passing through the area. The charges were brought thanks to a joint investigation by state and federal game wardens operating in the state.
Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources offered an $8,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of a poacher or poachers who killed a well-known 7×13 inch trophy buck south of Cedar City in Iron County. Game wardens were alerted by concerned citizens who discovered the buck and another poached doe after they went to investigate a circling flock of birds.
Utah Wildlife Officer Salary
As of 2013, game wardens in Utah earned a starting salary of $29,993 under the occupational title of Conservation Officer Level I (seasonal). With experience and years of service to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the salary at this level can reach a maximum of $47,528.
For a Conservation Officer Level II (full time), however, the salary begins about 5% higher at $31,657, and the maximum salary is a little more than 10% higher at $52,977.
According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, wildlife officers in Utah also receive a generous benefits package that adds to their total compensation. For example, long-term disability insurance is automatically provided by the State of Utah in addition to an automatic $25,000 life insurance policy at no cost to the employee.
Wildlife officers can also choose between six different medical plans, three dental plans, and two vision plans.
They also receive 11 paid holidays per year in addition to vacation and sick leave time.
Utah Department of Natural Resources, 2013