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A game warden is an employee who has the role of protecting wildlife. Game wardens may also be referred to as conservation officers or wildlife officers. They have much the same role as gamekeepers in the United Kingdommarker.

Game wardens by region

United States

In the United Statesmarker, 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 affect arrests for most crimes including traffic, and other general violations of the law.

Game wardens, also known as 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 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 helicopter and fixed-wing airplane surveys to count elk, deer, antelope and other game animals. 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.

Many states require a college degree and also require officers to attend a state-certified police academy; however, some states have lowered the entry requirements for officers. Connecticutmarker, for example, recently did away with their college requirement in hopes of opening the career field to a broader range of applicants.

In many jurisdictions conservation officers or game wardens have very broad authority. However, it is a fallacy that they can perform a search without a warrant in instances where regular law enforcement officers would need to obtain a warrant first. Conservation officers are bound by U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker decisions just like any other law enforcement officer. Due to the specialized nature of their job, and the specialized search and seizure rules that they must adhere to, these game wardens do "seem" to be able to conduct searches and seizure that other law enforcement officials can not do. Conservation officers can, and routinely do, seize fishing equipment, firearms, vehicles, watercraft, and other equipment and property used in the commission of fish and game crimes with and without warrants. In many states, game wardens do not need warrants to conduct checks on places that they suspect taken animals or fish to be located, whether on public property or private property. This includes game checks in the field as well as storage facilities where suspected illegal game are stored. At least 73 Game Wardens/Protectors/Conservation Officers are listed on listed on ODMP.

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 Louisianamarker 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 visit or inspect at frequent intervals without the need of search warrants, 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 therof 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.

See also


  1. Hall of Shame, Wyoming Outdoors Radio.
  2. CITES Vigilance, Alberta Game Warden Magazine, October, 1999.
  3. Louisiana law: Louisiana Legislature RS 56:55.

Further reading

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