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What Does a Wildlife Conservation Officer Do?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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A wildlife conservation officer is responsible for enforcing all of the conservation laws of the land by checking hunters and fishermen for licenses and harvests. Making checks of wildlife and habitat as well as educating the public on wildlife rules, regulations and dangers are also tasks of a wildlife conservation officer. Forestry laws, boating laws and pollution investigation are all typically covered by the wildlife conservation officer. This can include preventing and watching for forest fires and wildfires by manning watchtowers, patrolling forests by fire lane and investigating reports of fire and risky camper activity.

Wildlife conservation officers, or game wardens as they are commonly called, are on the front lines of animal control in several areas. From poaching to legal hunting, the wildlife conservation officer investigates reports of illegal activity and makes checks of sportsmen in the field and on the water. Checking for the proper licenses and tags as well as checking for the use of proper sporting equipment, the conservation officer makes certain that only legal means are being used for the harvesting of animals and fish. In some areas, the wild game harvested is examined by the officer at check-in stations. The animals are checked for age, sex and, in some cases, a sample of the carcass is taken to test for diseases, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer.

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In most areas, a wildlife conservation officer has all of the legal authority of a police officer, thus the conservation officer is able to write tickets and arrest violators. When making a check of a boat, the conservation officer has the authority to deem the boat not seaworthy and instruct the boat owner to complete repairs and have the vessel inspected prior to launching it into the water again. Infractions that can often cause a boat to be deemed not seaworthy are lack of fire extinguisher, failure to properly display registration numbers and/or stickers and having no battery box. Lack of floatation devices, operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and dangerous driving are also ticketing offenses.

Conservation officers typically operate government-owned vehicles in the commission of work duties. The wildlife conservation officer often sets up traps and ambushes for poachers by setting out decoy animals or by monitoring waterways that are frequented by trappers, illegal fishermen and those with fish in excess of the legal limit. This type of duty is often dangerous and some wildlife conservation officers have been shot and killed by offenders in the field.

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browncoat
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - It must be morally tough sometimes though and not just because you deal with idiots. In some cases people have legitimate complaints about the animals but legally there is nothing they can do. Wolves have been introduced in places where they can attack farm animals, for example. I'm not saying it's a bad thing they were introduced in the grand scheme of things, but you can certainly see how a conservation officer might feel sympathy for farmers who end up losing livestock they need to survive.

I've also heard of situations where one kind of animal has to be eradicated to ensure the survival of another, which can be a difficult thing for an animal lover to contemplate.

Wild horses, for example, often end up destroying areas needed for native creatures and may need to be controlled. This wouldn't be a pleasant duty for someone who got into the field because they care for animals.

lluviaporos
Post 2

@KoiwiGal - I think it can be a tough job, but it probably has its upsides as well. I follow a lot of conservation news and often it seems very bleak and unhappy, because urgent news stories are ones that people want to click on. But there have been a lot of triumphs in the conservation of wildlife as well.

It is possible for dedicated people to save species, even if that species has been whittled down in population numbers to only a handful of individuals.

Knowing that your job has contributed to that kind of thing must be a very nice feeling and I'm sure it definitely helps them through the harder aspects of what they do.

KoiwiGal
Post 1

The people who do this kind of work must get so frustrated with the different ways that citizens try to flout the law. I watch a couple of television shows based around conservation officers in different countries and the amount of stupidity they have to deal with is unbelievable.

The worst is when people who have been collecting animals like shellfish illegally and then dump them when the officers come into sight. Not only are they being completely obvious, they're also guilty of killing all those shellfish for no good reason, just to save their own skins.

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