A Day in the Life of a Conservation Warden
Every day is different
If you were to ask any warden, “What is a typical day as a warden like?” you would most likely receive one of two answers -- "There is no such thing," or, "It depends on the season." Both are very true. The daily duties of a conservation warden change with the seasons, but even within those seasons a phone call or weather shift can drastically alter the day’s plan.
Wardens are responsible for
- Enforcing and investigating all DNR regulated activities including:
- hunting, fishing, trapping, snowmobiling, ATVing and boating;
- enforcing all state laws in state parks, forests and other DNR-owned lands;
- timber theft, manure spills and environmental violations;
- illegally held wildlife and major recreational vehicle accidents;
- responding to injured wildlife calls, natural disasters, emergencies and Governor’s requests;
- attending, teaching or presenting at Learn To Hunt events, safety classes, outdoor sports expos and community meetings; and
- assisting other law enforcement agencies when requested.
On any given day, wardens will most likely partake in several of those responsibilities. Wardens may be actively patrolling and making contacts with the public, investigating and following through with complaints or completing paperwork from previous cases.
In Wisconsin, we have nine high-use state properties (state parks and forests) that require the attention of property-specific conservation wardens. The high-use properties are Devils Lake State Park, Willow River State Park, Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, Peninsula State Park, High Cliff State Park, Kohler-Andrea State Park, Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern and Southern Units, and Governor Dodge State Park. These property-specific conservation wardens are permanent conservation wardens whose focus is law enforcement on these state properties. Their work is focused on the property for most the year, but during low-use periods their role may include more traditional conservation warden patrols and duties off-property. There are two recreational property conservation wardens assigned per property, except for Devils Lake State Park and Kettle Moraine State Forest, where there are three positions per property. Learn more about Wisconsin State Parks and Forests.
Variable and Flexible Schedule
Wardens have variable schedules, which include scheduled shifts in state parks and forests. When not scheduled in parks or forests, wardens are given the freedom to adjust their own work schedules as needed, which is why it is crucial that any potential candidate be self-motivated, responsible and able to prioritize duties. Wardens are scheduled to work at least every other weekend, the major hunting or fishing season openers, and most summer holidays. Additionally, wardens are allowed a specified amount of overtime which they must manage throughout the year.
Wardens Can Still Hunt, Fish, and Recreate
Although work scheduling can make these activities more difficult, schedules are often flexible allowing for more outdoor recreation on weekdays. Participating in the recreational activities that conservation wardens enforce is highly beneficial for wardens, as it keeps them up to speed on the latest tools and trends in outdoor recreation.
Although wardens work as part of a larger team, wardens are generally responsible for covering most calls in their assigned area. The specialized skills and equipment that wardens possess make them unique assets in their communities, and they may be called upon to assist at any time, day or night. A warden’s schedule will also likely involve overtime throughout the year.
Speak with your local wardens or the conservation warden recruiter. One of the best ways to get a real feel for the job is to shadow a warden during a ride-along. To request a ride-along, contact your local conservation warden. You can find out who your local wardens are by visiting the DNR Staff Directory- Wisconsin DNR.
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