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Becoming a Game Warden

If you’ve read the Behind the Badge blog post Full Circle, then you already know we hired four new game wardens to our staff. What you might not know, however, is the extensive training process probationary game wardens must complete before they can work on their own as a district game warden in an assigned district.

Our new hires are undoubtedly excited to complete the process of becoming a game warden. I think if you asked our wardens, we might all still remember the excitement of getting the phone call letting us know we made the cut and the anticipation of what would happen in the weeks and months ahead.

Typically, probationary game wardens start the training process by attending the ND basic law enforcement training academy (if they haven’t already). The academy consists of approximately three months of intensive in-person training in a variety of law enforcement disciplines. A few examples of those topics may include ND criminal and traffic law, constitutional law, defensive tactics/officer safety, drug and alcohol impairment testing and enforcement, and firearms training. Although the academy has a traditional law enforcement focus, a lot of what our new recruits learn in the basic academy is applicable to game wardens too. For our new game wardens, once they complete the basic academy, their training has just begun.

What comes next after the basic law enforcement academy is our field training program in which we try to mold our new wardens into competent, self-sufficient game wardens. We aim to accomplish this goal by placing our new wardens with experienced officers in the field. My aim is to keep this article short so this won’t be a comprehensive list of skills our wardens need to possess, but hopefully will give readers a general idea of what our 16-week field training program entails.

As Game and Fish employees, our new wardens will need to be familiar with all divisions within the Department, as well as our role as game wardens in assisting them to fulfill our collective mission as an agency. Those areas can include the PLOTS program, wildlife management areas, deer depredation, fish spawning, wildlife identification and surveys, outreach efforts, and licensing work just to name a few. More specifically, as law enforcement officers our primary efforts are focused on the enforcement of game and fish laws and administrative rules.

To fulfill our primary duties, our new wardens learn, during field training, state law and administrative rules related to hunting, fishing, trapping, boating and commercial activity. Once they have a grasp of those regulations, they learn how to apply them in the field and the techniques required to work as an effective game warden. They also learn how to operate different types of vehicles such as 4X4 pickups, ATV’s, UTV’s, snowmobiles and boats. They learn how to operate those vehicles in different types of unfavorable weather and light conditions.

In North Dakota, nearly all game and fish enforcement districts only have one game warden so by necessity, game wardens must wear many hats. A game warden needs to be, at times, his or her own dispatcher, responding officer, investigator, crime scene and evidence technician, be able to perform wildlife necropsies, and serve as the point of contact between the enforcement division and the public. Game wardens also participate in community and youth outreach events such as career days and hunter education, among others.

Once our new game wardens successfully complete the above required training, only then are they sent out to their assigned district to work by themselves.

From that point forward, all game wardens attend annual training in various disciplines and can participate in elective trainings to build on their skillsets.

We just had four new wardens graduate the law enforcement academy. We would like to welcome them to the Game and Fish Department and the enforcement division, and we wish them a safe and successful career protecting the resources and citizens of North Dakota.

- District Game Warden Blake Riewer

Interested in becoming a game warden? The Department has a full-time temporary district warden position open. Individuals must register no later than May 24, 2022. The test is at 10 a.m., May 27, at the Game and Fish Department's main office in Bismarck. Applicants must register by submitting an online application through the North Dakota State Job Openings website. Learn more.

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