||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (February 2015)|
A game warden or wildlife officer is an employee who has the role of protecting wildlife. Game wardens may also be referred to as troopers, state troopers, wildlife troopers, conservation officers or wildlife officers. They have much the same role as gamekeepers in the United Kingdom. They play a major role in keeping a balance in the animal kingdom.
Game wardens by region
In the United States, game wardens are state or local officials responsible for enforcing laws pertaining to the hunting, fishing, and trapping of wild animals. However game wardens in some areas have general law enforcement authority which means they can effect arrests for most crimes including traffic, and other general violations of the law.
Game wardens, also known as troopers or wildlife troopers, or conservation officers, have broad duties within the law enforcement spectrum, such as ensuring that licensing requirements are met by hunters, fishermen, and trappers. Detailed investigations are common in order to solve wildlife crimes. Officers in some areas may be responsible for conducting investigations of hunting related homicides and boating accidents. Officers also make arrests of individuals driving or boating under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Officers use DNA, ballistic, fingerprint, and any other comparative evidence to prosecute criminals that illegally kill wildlife or commit other crimes. Officers can also assist with wildlife management duties such as trapping, hunting in a helicopter or in fixed-wing airplane surveys. Officers assist landowners in finding solutions to wildlife damage. Officers teach hunter education classes and operate other programs to teach children, and the public, the importance of wildlife management and habitat conservation.
73 Game Wardens/Protectors/Conservation Officers are listed on The Officer Down Memorial Page.
Game wardens/conservation officers are on the front lines in keeping out (or in check) invasive species. They also enforce broader conservation laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and similar laws/treaties. Or the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (in Canada) which implements the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
Search with or without warrant
The laws in many U.S. states allow game wardens to conduct certain types of searches with or without search warrants. The law in Louisiana for instance states in part "...any commissioned wildlife agent may visit, inspect, and examine, with or without [a] search warrant, records, any cold storage plant, warehouse, boat, store, car, conveyance, automobile or other vehicle, airplane or other aircraft, basket or other receptacle, or any place of deposit for wild birds, wild quadrupeds, fish or other aquatic life or any parts thereof whenever there is probable cause to believe that a violation has occurred. Commissioned wildlife agents are authorized to search and inspect (just as other law enforcement officers) under the authority of probable cause - records, cold storage plants, bait stands, warehouses, public restaurants, public and private markets, stores, and places where wild birds, game quadrupeds, fish, or other aquatic life or any parts thereof may be kept and offered for sale, for the purpose of ascertaining whether any laws or regulations under the jurisdiction of the department have been violated...." The laws in other states may grant more or less search and seizure authority. These exceptions granted to game wardens are still considered to fall within the constitutional limits of search and seizure as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
Recognizing the wardens' roles
As noted at the North American Game Warden Museum, confronting armed poachers in rural and even remote locations can be lonely, dangerous and even fatal work for game wardens. Recognition of the ultimate sacrifice of these officers at this museum is considered to be important, concomitant to recognition at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Officers are exposed to other risks beyond being killed by hunters, trappers and armed fishermen. Heart attacks, motor vehicle, boating, snowmobile and airplane accidents, animal attacks, drowning, hypothermia, etc. also take their toll while on duty.
In North America game wardens are typically employees of state or provincial governments. 26 of the 50 U.S. states have government departments entitled Department of Natural Resources or a similar title. These departments typically patrol state or provincial parks and public lands and waterways dedicated to hunting and fishing, and also enforce state or provincial game and environmental laws on private property.
In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, their concerns are much more comprehensive than local enforcement. They also enforce broader conservation laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and similar laws/treaties. or the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (in Canada) which implements the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna As necessary, they will work in tandem with appropriate national or federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Environment Canada.
Notable game wardens
- "Hall of Shame, Wyoming Outdoors Radio". Wyomingoutdoorsradio.com. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- CITES Vigilance, Alberta Game Warden Magazine, October, 1999.[dead link]
- Louisiana law: Louisiana Legislature RS 56:55.
- "North American Game Warden Museum". Gamewardenmuseum.org. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
- Johnson, Kirk (December 6, 2010). "In the Wild, a Big Threat to Rangers: Human". Golden, Colorado: New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2011.
- Fallen Officers, Michigan Conservation Officers Association.
- North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association, lists of Canadian and American officers lost while on duty, 1980 to present.[dead link]
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