Special Agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement are plainclothes criminal investigators who enforce Federal wildlife laws throughout the United States. They target criminal activities, such as wildlife trafficking and habitat destruction, that undermine U.S. efforts to conserve wildlife resources.
Service Special Agents work to protect threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, marine mammals, and imperiled animals and plants around the world. Their investigations document violations of wildlife laws (such as the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and Lacey Act) as well as such crimes as smuggling, conspiracy, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, and false statements. Special Agents investigate crimes that range from international wildlife smuggling to unlawful migratory game bird hunting. Like all criminal investigators, they collect evidence, interview witnesses, interrogate subjects, conduct surveillance, plan raids, make arrests, and prepare cases for court.
Special Agents often work undercover to infiltrate wildlife trafficking rings, illegal guiding operations, and other criminal groups to document violations from the "inside." Covert investigations can range from simple "buy-bust" transactions where agents arrange to purchase illegal wildlife from subjects to multi-year probes in which agents establish false identities and even run wildlife businesses to gain the confidence of the criminals they hope to expose.
Special Agents investigate the killing of endangered species and other protected wildlife, such as eagles, migratory birds, and marine mammals. They support species reintroduction programs and pursue cases involving the destruction or contamination of wildlife habitat. They investigate oil or chemical spills and poisoning incidents that kill wildlife. They also work with industry groups and individual companies to reduce hazards to migratory birds and other wildlife caused by oil pits, power lines, communication towers, wind farms, and mining operations.
Special Agents often work closely with other Federal, State, Tribal, or foreign law enforcement authorities. They help Service Refuge Officers conduct investigations of crimes that occur on refuge lands. Other examples of common Federal partnerships include work with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement on wildlife smuggling cases and cooperative investigations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency involving oil spills, industrial contaminants or pesticides. Special Agents team with State counterparts to enforce regulations that govern the hunting of waterfowl and other migratory birds and assist the States in detecting and deterring the interstate exploitation of State-protected species, including big game animals and fishery resources.
They also assist Tribal enforcement officers when crimes involve violations of both Federal and Tribal laws and regulations. Work with enforcement authorities in other nations ranges from sharing intelligence to conducting joint or parallel investigations of international wildlife trafficking.
Special Agents conduct training on wildlife law enforcement for State and Tribal officers as well as for enforcement officers overseas. They also respond to citizen complaints and conduct public outreach to secure voluntary compliance with Federal wildlife laws.