Fish and game wardens enforce the laws that protect fish and wildlife.
Fish and game wardens have many diverse duties. Many people imagine it as a glamorous job. After all, they catch dangerous poachers and ride on horseback, right? Not so much. While wardens still enforce the law, they also do things ranging from rescuing a trapped salmon on its way to spawn, to teaching first graders how to fish.
First and foremost, fish and game wardens monitor wildlife populations. The term "wildlife" applies to animals, such as deer and wolves, that are not raised by humans. Wardens want to be sure there are not too many or too few of each type of animal. Wardens gather data through research and observation. If they find an irregularity in the number of animals, fish and game wardens try to correct the problem. If the number of animals is low, wardens recommend changes to protect animals. They may do this by improving the animals' habitat or by changing laws. If the number of animals is high, wardens must determine how to decrease the number. In addition, wardens must determine whether the change in the number of animals is a long-term event or just a one-year change.
Besides monitoring wildlife, wardens also enforce hunting and fishing laws. They check that hunters and fishers have the proper licenses and are not taking too many animals. Wardens may write tickets when they find people who have broken the law. They sometimes arrest offenders. They may also seize hunters' or fishers' gear, or their catch if it was caught illegally. In addition, they investigate hunting accidents and may promote hunter safety. Fish and game wardens may use cars, boats, horses, or airplanes to monitor wildlife areas.
Fish and game wardens frequently work with the public. They may make presentations to schools or sporting clubs about where animals live, how they survive, and what is being done to protect them. They also work with people who live near wildlife areas. Fish and game wardens investigate property or crops that may have been damaged by animals. For example, they may determine whether a sheep was attacked by wolves, coyotes, or dogs. They do this by examining tracks and other evidence. Wardens suggest ways that property owners can prevent future damage. They also record the amount of damage and estimate how much the owners will be paid for their loss.
Fish and game wardens are also called fish and wildlife managers or wildlife officers. Some wardens become wildlife inspectors or special agents. Wildlife inspectors work at major U.S. entry ports to decrease the illegal trade of fish and wildlife. Special agents are trained as criminal investigators. They may work undercover to expose illegal businesses, such as people hunting animals that are at risk of being extinct.