For the first time in its 122-year history, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will call its law-enforcement officers “state game wardens.”
Effective on January 1, 2018 Pennsylvania will have game wardens. Not that they didn't before, they just called them something different.
“The job titles previously used to describe our field officers – game protector and wildlife conservation officer – didn’t fully identify their unique and diverse responsibilities,” explained Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The goal here is to more clearly identify our officers and their purpose. We believe ‘state game warden’ will help communicate this.
“In addition, this title already is well understood by the public,” Burhans said. “The word ‘warden’ is America’s oldest title for the men and women who serve wildlife in this capacity.”
Since the recodification of the state’s Game and Wildlife Code in 1987, field officers were titled wildlife conservation officers. Prior to that, they were called district game protectors. But neither title resonated with the public. Many never associated them with Game Commission officers
Game wardens are known by many different titles depending upon the state wildlife agency for which they work. The titles reflect the varying sets of broad duties they fulfill. Most wardens share a basic duty to enforce the laws that regulate hunting, protect wildlife and the environment. However, their duties extend into education, research and a host of conservation programs.
For example, Pennsylvania game wardens coordinate and supervise Hunter-Trapper Education programs. They also represent the agency at conservation and sportsmen’s club meetings, respond to nuisance wildlife complaints, and deal with injured wildlife and suspected rabid-animal calls. Warden work also includes wildlife surveys, wildlife trap-and-transfer, field research and providing programs to civic groups and public schools.
“It was the variety of work, which has accompanied the position since game protectors were defined by law in 1895, that inspired the former titles our officers have had,” Burhans said.
While wildlife law-enforcement is a core responsibility, fulfillment of an officer’s full range of duties requires significant training and responsibility.
Burhans noted that the public often wonders what our game wardens do outside of the hunting season.
“There is no “off” season for our officers,” he said. “The breadth of responsibilities is what sets game wardens apart from other traditional law-enforcement professionals. Being a game warden requires a very unique person willing and able develop a diversity of skills in support of the agency.”
Burhans said renaming full-time agency officers ‘game wardens’ immediately will help the public know what these officers do.
It’s important to point out, though, that game wardens are sworn peace officers with statewide law-enforcement authority. They are highly trained and equipped as well as any police officer. They are expected to know and follow standards for protecting civil rights, gathering evidence that will hold up in court and prosecute violations of many different laws.
“As one of the most familiar faces of our agency, it is critical that that game wardens are recognized for who they are and what they do,” emphasized Burhans. “Anything less is unacceptable.”