What is a wildlife enforcement officer?

The exciting career path of today's wildlife enforcement officer is just one of those made available with a criminal justice degree. What are the main functions of this job, and where is it offered? Here's the scoop on this important role in law enforcement and natural conservation.

Job Purpose

In short, the purpose of the wildlife enforcement officer, or wildlife protection officer as they are often known, is to enforce all laws, but more specifically, to enforce laws regarding wildlife and natural resources. While typical law enforcement officers work in more populated areas with more human-absorbed issues and laws, the wildlife protection officer, actually a federal law enforcement officer, works in generally less populated areas protecting wildlife and nature assets covered by current law.

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Specific Duties

In carrying out this specialty area of police work, the protection officer will need to be equipped, both in skill and equipment, for a lot of outdoors work. Quite often, this involves surveying and keeping watch over various natural assets. In other instances, the officer may need to interact with hunters, trappers, hikers, and others with whom they may find business. The responsibilities here are many, but a few of those highlighted by the chief employer of this position, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, include:

  • Protecting refuge visitors and employees from disturbance or harm by others.
  • Assisting visitors in understanding refuge laws, regulations, and the reasons for them.
  • Enhancing the management and protection of fish and wildlife resources on refuges.
  • Ensuring the legally prescribed, equitable use of fish and wildlife resources on refuges.
  • Obtaining compliance with laws and regulations necessary for the proper administration, management, and protection of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Job Qualifications

Because this is a law enforcement position, many of the requirements to gain entry into the position are the same as in typical police job openings. These include having a trustworthy personal history, the ability to carry and operate firearms, and having obtained the age of at least 21 years. Beyond these base requirements, The US Fish and Wildlife Service requires the applying candidate:

Have at least one year work experience in the field of law enforcement and/ or natural resources OR have a four year course study leading to a bachelor's degree or possess a bachelor's degree with a major focus in natural resource management, natural sciences, park and recreation science, criminal justice or other closely related subjects to the management and protection of natural and cultural resources.

  • Pass an extensive medical exam, psychological screening, background investigation, drug tests, and physical fitness tests.
  • Have a valid driver's license.
  • Be a U.S. citizen.

There are many, specialized sides to law enforcement today. The enforcement of laws directly involving natural resources and wildlife is one area of that enforcement effort delegated specifically to wildlife officers. These are the basics of the career of today's wildlife enforcement officer, yet another great path among the many opened through the completion of a criminal justice degree.