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Federal Wildlife Officers

Law Enforcement badgeLaw enforcement is an integral part of managing the National Wildlife Refuge System. Refuge law enforcement officers are responsible for upholding federal laws and regulations that protect natural resources, the public and employees.

By fostering understanding and instilling in the visiting public an appreciation of refuge resources, laws, and regulations, our law enforcement encourages voluntary compliance through education, outreach, and law enforcement actions while in a welcoming and safe environment. Refuge law enforcement works collaboratively with law enforcement officers from other state and federal land management agencies as well as local law enforcement.

Law enforcement officers have five main objectives:

  • To protect refuge visitors and employees from disturbance or harm by others.
  • To assist visitors in understanding refuge laws, regulations and the reasons for them.
  • To enhance the management and protection of plant, fish, and wildlife resources on refuges.
  • To ensure the legally prescribed, equitable use of fish and wildlife resources on refuges (The big six: Education, interpretation, wildlife observation, photography, fishing, and hunting.)
  • To obtain compliance with laws and regulations necessary for the proper administration, management and protection of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

What does this mean? Each refuge is different, so each refuge officer's job varies somewhat, but in essence it means that refuge officers routinely patrol our refuge lands, trails, parking lots and visitor centers to make sure that all laws and regulations are being followed. Compliance checks of hunters, anglers and other users are routine. Officers also help out occasionally in other management or biological programs on refuges.

Qualifications and Training

Federal Wildlife Officers are commissioned law enforcement officers. They are required to carry firearms and other defensive equipment; therefore, they must be at least 18 years old and physically and emotionally fit. A 2- or 4-year degree in natural resources conservation, criminal justice, or a related field is desirable, although applicable experience may be substituted for education.

Needless to say, Federal Wildlife Officers must like working outdoors in all kinds of weather! They also must enjoy working with people, because most of the job will consist of contacting and interacting with refuge visitors, neighbors and other employees. If someone is interested in becoming a refuge law enforcement officer it would be a good idea to visit a national wildlife refuge and talk to the staff or an officer, if possible.

Physical fitness is crucial in obtaining and maintaining a commission. Before entry into the federal law enforcement officer training program, and then annually, officers and potential officers must undergo a physical examination and be physically and medically capable of performing the essential duties of the position efficiently, without hazard to themselves or others. Testing consists of a 1-1/2-mile run, bench press, agility run, sit and reach, and a determination of the percentage of body fat. 

Other requirements include:
Psychological Screening Officers must pass a series of psychological screening tests before entry.
Age Officers must be between the ages of 18 and 37 before entry.
Background Investigation Officers must undergo an initial background investigation.
Drug Tests There is a test before entry and periodically thereafter.
Firearms Qualifications Officers must qualify periodically with the weapons that they carry.

If accepted into the training program to become a federal law enforcement officer, the applicant will then undergo 18 weeks at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia; 3-4 weeks of Refuge Officer Basic School; and 10 weeks of the Field Training and Evaluation Program. Potential officers will be evaluated on their performance in all phases of the training.

For law enforcement job openings and other US Fish and Wildlife career opportunities visit the US Fish and Wildlife webpage at www.fws.gov.

Last Updated: Nov 01, 2016
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