Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, or VDGIF, regulates fish and wildlife in Virginia. It is managed by the Director of Game and Inland Fisheries and overseen by the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries was created on June 17th, 1916 under the Commission of Fisheries with M.D. "Mac" Hart appointed as Secretary of the Department. A Virginia hunting license was established as one of the primary sources of funding as the agency is fully self-sufficient and receiving no financial support from the state treasury. From 1903 until this point the Game Wardens had been administered by each locality. In 1920, the first Virginia State Game Farm of 1200 acres was established at Windsor Shades in New Kent County. In 1923, Mrs B. M. Miller and Mrs. C. E. Sykes are recognized among Virginia's first women game wardens. In 1926, the Department was separated from the Commission of Fisheries and reorganized into the Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries chaired by A. Willis Robertson. In 1928 the Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries was given sole authority to shorten hunting seasons, removing the privilege from the localities to adjust their own season. In 1982, Virginia Game Wardens were given full law enforcement authority. In 1987, the Commission returns to become the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. On July 1st, 2020 the Department became the Department of Wildlife Resources.
VDGIF's mission is to:
- Conserve and manage wildlife populations and habitat for the benefit of present and future generations.
- Connect people to Virginia’s outdoors through boating, education, fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, and other wildlife-related activities.
- Protect people and property by promoting safe outdoor experiences and managing human-wildlife conflicts.
Under Virginia Code Section 29.1-109 the Director of Game and Inland Fisheries has the power to:
- Enforce or cause to be enforced all laws for the protection, propagation, and preservation of game birds and game animals of the Commonwealth and all fish in the inland waters thereof
- Initiate prosecution of all persons who violate such laws, and seize and confiscate wild birds, wild animals, and fish that have been illegally killed, caught, transported or shipped.
- Enter into reciprocal or mutual aid agreements with other states pertaining to the enforcement of laws across state boundaries,
- Employ persons necessary for the administrative requirements of the Board and to designate the official position and duties of each,
- Perform such acts as may be necessary to the conduct and establishment of cooperative fish and wildlife projects with the federal government,
- Make and enter into all contracts and agreements necessary or incidental to the performance of his duties and the execution of his powers.
The law enforcement officers of VDGIF carry the official title of Conservation Police Officer. The official title was Game Warden prior to July 1, 2007. Conservation police officers from the Law Enforcement Division of VDGIF have full police powers but focus on enforcing Virginia's wildlife and boating laws in the state's numerous fields, forests, and waterways. Usually a single officer is assigned to work in a county or city. There are some exceptions, depending on the needs of the community. Conservation officers assist each other in adjacent counties within their work areas. They also work with local law enforcement agencies when performing manhunts, search and rescue, and other endeavors. Conservation Police Officers are fully certified officers through the Department of Criminal Justice Services, with the authority to enforce all of the laws of Virginia. As Deputy US Fish and Wildlife Special Agents, they may also conduct investigations and cross state lines when violations of federal wildlife laws have been committed.
Since the establishment of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, nine officers have died while on duty.
|Game Warden/Officer||Date of Death||Details|
|Game Warden Donald Wyatt Gentry||Aircraft Accident|
|Game Warden Allen Cooke Flippo||Aircraft Accident|
|Game Warden Francis E. "Red" Lindsay||Gunfire|
|Game Warden Cecil B. Bays||Gunfire|
|Game Warden Frank M. Tompkins||Gunfire|
|Game Warden John L. Cox||Gunfire|
|Game Warden Harvey M. Carter||Gunfire|
|Game Warden Frank H. Gillam||Gunfire|
|Game Warden Joseph J. Powell||Gunfire|
- List of law enforcement agencies in Virginia
- Conservation Police Officer
- Virginia Wildlife Management Areas
- List of State Fish and Wildlife Management Agencies in the U.S.