Law Enforcement

1907 photo of first Federal Wildlife Officer, Paul Kroegel, on Pelican Island with young pelican.  Photo by George Nelson/USFWS

“Fulfillment of the Service’s conservation mission requires the effective enforcement of wildlife protection laws both on Service lands and the country at large.”  

—Dale Hall, Former Fish and Wildlife Service Director

Since the first Federal Game Warden Paul Kroegel began patrolling Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in 1903, law enforcement has been an integral facet of conservation management. Currently known as Federal Wildlife Officers (Officers), the purpose of these dedicated professionals remains largely unchanged, with law enforcement essential to virtually every aspect of wildlife conservation. It contributes to and protects the Refuge System's efforts to manage ecosystems, save endangered species, conserve migratory birds, preserve wildlife habitat, restore fisheries, combat invasive species, and promote international wildlife conservation.

Here at the National Bison Range Complex, Federal Wildlife Officers seek to protect visitors and wildlife on the 4 National Wildlife Refuges and 15 Waterfowl Production Areas which make up the Complex. Officers at the Complex cover a vast area throughout the Mission and Flathead Valleys and enforce a wide array of regulations, including some that are unique to specific units. A few of these regulations at the National Bison Range include restricting visitors to hiking on designated trails and requiring visitors to remain in their vehicles when wildlife is near. These regulations are in effect to limit potential hazardous interactions with bison or other wildlife, but they also allow every visitor to have the opportunity for good views of a variety of wildlife without disturbing the animals. You will also find our Federal Wildlife Officers giving fishing and hunting classes to the local schools and participating in biological or maintenance activities. Our officers seek to educate visitors whenever possible, but will issue federal violations when necessary. Follow the link to the Rules and Regulations page.  

In addition to these law enforcement duties, our Federal Wildlife Officers also ensure compliance with 6,300 acres of conservation easements that are under the National Bison Range Complex. To fulfill their federal game warden obligations, our officers also check hunting and fishing licenses and work closely with Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal (CSKT) Game Wardens and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Game Wardens to enforce federal and state hunting and fishing regulations. They also work closely with the CSKT Police Department, Lake and Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol, and other Federal, State, Tribal, and local law enforcement departments. Federal Wildlife Officers also have jurisdiction to enforce a wide variety of federal conservation laws throughout the United States, including those related to migratory bird hunting on and off of Refuge lands.

 Federal Wildlife Officer Mike Koole assists Charlo 4th grade at a Hooked on Fishing event.  USFWS photo