West Virginia lies entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range, making it one of the most mountainous states in the country. Its mountains, rivers, and plateaus create a beautiful place to live and work. For people who enjoy hiking, fishing, hunting, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, skiing, or any other outdoor activity, West Virginia provides a never-ending playground of options. Its temperate climate allows a full-range of outdoor activities for every season.
Fish and game wardens, referred to in West Virginia as Natural Resources Police Officers, serve as law enforcement for the Division of Natural Resources. Fish and game warden jobs in West Virginia include elements of law enforcement, public education, knowledge of natural resources, and experience in a variety of outdoor activities and survival skills.
West Virginia Game Warden Job Requirements and Responsibilities
General Requirements – With such a wealth of natural and rugged beauty, it is no surprise that becoming a game warden in West Virginia requires physical as well as educational and other training requirements. Applicants for the position of game warden (referred to as Natural Resources Police Officer) must be able to pass physical endurance tests, including strength, endurance, and swimming elements. Other requirements include being licensed to operate a motor vehicle in West Virginia, passing periodic firearms qualification examinations, psychological evaluations, and a polygraph exam.
Degree Requirements – To become a game warden in West Virginia, you must have a four-year degree in natural sciences, law enforcement, criminal justice or similar majors. An associate’s degree in one of these fields plus experience as a military police officer or law enforcement officer is another possible route to become a fish and game warden in West Virginia. Once applicants have been accepted for the position, they undergo a one year probationary period. Additional training may be necessary or desired to fulfill the tasks of the job with the utmost confidence.
Job Functions – Fish and game wardens in West Virginia are responsible for a variety of duties, including enforcing state rules and regulations for hunting, fishing, and other activities related to the conservation and protection of the state’s natural resources. They also play a large role in educating the public about different aspects of the natural resources within the state, such as hunting and boating safety education. They also are responsible for apprehending violators of natural resources laws for infractions related to littering, environmental or solid waste disposal, boating rules, and hunting limits and seasons.
Protecting West Virginia’s Natural Resources
West Virginia boasts more than 50 state parks, state forests, and wildlife management areas, plus more than ten national parks and recreation areas, including:
- The Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- Monongahela National Forest
- New River Gorge National River
West Virginia fish and game wardens may be called upon to work in concert with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents because of the overlap of national and state natural resource and recreation areas. They also may be called upon in search and rescue operations, natural or manmade disaster recovery, and even undercover work to apprehend violators of national and state laws regarding natural resources.
Well-prepared applicants for fish and game warden positions in West Virginia have knowledge of the various fish and wildlife species that are commonly found in the state. According to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, more than 50 species of amphibians and reptiles, 70 kinds of wild mammals, 178 species of fish and nearly 300 species of birds make their home in the state. Hunting species include deer, bear, boar, and wild turkey, although many other small game and fowl are hunted or trapped as well. Sport fish include largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, musky, trout, and northern pike.
West Virginia has eleven species of animals and four types of plants listed as endangered species. Four species of animals and two plants are listed as threatened. Although West Virginia does not have endangered species legislation, fish and game wardens work with US Fish and Wildlife Special Agents to track and protect these animals and plants.
West Virginia is geographically and demographically one of the smaller states in the United States. The largest city in the state is the capital, Charleston, and the largest metro area is Huntington (WV)-Ashland (KY)-Ironton (OH); however even these are small compared to other cities and metropolitan areas in surrounding states. The US Census reports the population of Charleston as less than 52,000 and the population of the metro Huntington area almost 370,000. West Virginia has 55 counties which have many small cities and towns, as well as unincorporated areas. Fish and game wardens are typically assigned to a geographical area, such as a county or portion of a county.
West Virginia Wildlife Officer Salary
In West Virginia, game wardens are recognized as Natural Resources Police Officers. According to the West Virginia Division of Personnel, the starting salary for fish and game wardens in the state was $31,222 as of 2013. This is the salary which is paid during the 1-year probationary period. After that, salary increases are given by years of service (West Virginia Division of Personnel, 2013):
2 Years: $34,881
3 Years: $35,277
4-5 Years: $35,601
6-10 Years: $37,797
11-15 Years: $38,397
15+ Years: $38,833
Of course, there are professional advancement opportunities as well, each of which offer incrementally higher salaries (West Virginia Division of Personnel, 2013):
Natural Resources Police Officer Corporal: $42,105
Natural Resources Police Officer Sergeant: $46,401
Natural Resources Police Officer First Sergeant: $48,549
Natural Resources Police Officer Lieutenant: $52,857
Natural Resources Police Officer Captain: $55,005
Natural Resources Police Officer Major: $57,153
Natural Resources Police Officer Lieutenant Colonel: $59,301