North Dakota's game wardens are a prize all their own

Doug Leier
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

DEVILS LAKE -The 38 game wardens in North Dakota come from a variety of backgrounds and interests but each bring to the Game and Fish Department a special skill, talent and ability.

Spending time at the Department’s booth at the Sportsman Show this winter I enjoyed the conversations with hunters, anglers, kids and those tagging along. Situated next to an outfitter from South Africa, while discussing zebra mussels, in North Dakota sure makes for a unique experience.

What was even more eye-opening was working with a few of the game wardens. While each has been working the field for more than a decade, it was a reminder of how much has changed since I started as a game warden. There were no zebra mussels, chronic wasting disease, not to mention seasons on mountain lions and river otters.

If you have an interest in becoming a game warden, you owe it to yourself to investigate and explore the possibility.

What hasn’t changed is the passion of many for North Dakota outdoors, or the drive of Department wardens in keeping poachers in check and hunters and anglers safe.

Want to become a North Dakota game warden? The first step in the process is registering to take the upcoming game warden exam. Interested in taking the exam to select candidates for the position of a full-time temporary district game warden? You must register no later than May 24. The test is at 10 a.m., May 27, at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department's main office in Bismarck. Applicants must register by submitting an online application through the North Dakota State Job Openings website. You may be eligible even if you don’t have a fisheries and wildlife degree or law enforcement background.

The requirements: Applicants must be at least 21, have a bachelor’s degree at time of hire or an associate degree with either 2 years of law enforcement or wildlife experience, have a valid driver’s license and a current North Dakota peace officer license, or be eligible to be licensed. Candidates must successfully complete a comprehensive background check and must not have a record of any felony convictions. Salary through training is $4,400 per month. For more information, see the district game warden job announcement on the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov.

I can’t stress enough if you have an interest in becoming a game warden, you owe it to yourself to investigate and explore the possibility. Call your local game warden and ask a few questions. You’ll soon realize there is no template for the job.

Like any job there will be realities of working in a career field where you’ll be working the deer opener and on and around the water on the Fourth of July. Game wardens get time off just like everyone else. But also understand the job is not of a fishing guide or professional hunter. Oftentimes you’ll be working during peak activity of hunting and fishing. It’s part of the job, but for most game wardens the give and take of having a flexible work and day schedule is a nice trade off.

I remember growing up with career game wardens Harold Bellin of LaMoure and Delbert Tibke in Valley City. Before I was hired, I went on a ridealong with Ken Skuza in Kenmare and Mike Raasakka in Stanley. While Harold and Delbert have passed away, Ken and Mike are still working. A testament to their passion for the job and the satisfaction of working in a career field they appreciate.

Who knows, maybe you could be next.

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist in the state of North Daota