California Game Wardens
CA GAME WARDENS
- High risk work -
- High education requirements -
- High value mission -
- Low pay for statewide work -
- Inappropriate representation with non-sworn personnel -
California is a leader in many challenging enforcement and environmental roles. Our Game Wardens stand bravely at the crossroads of crime and the environment, where so much can be lost, so quickly and so definitively.
Game Wardens are much more than just proactive state peace officers; they are detectives and investigators as well. Game Wardens performs their own field and crime scene forensics: analyzing ballistics, bullet casings, tracks, blood, hair, and collecting these and other items for submission to the CDFW Wildlife Forensic Lab.
According to the Nature Conservancy, California has the most biodiversity and highest number of endemic species of any state in the U.S., and has the second highest conservation and extinction risk level. Game Wardens are the front line of California’s resource and environmental protection.
As California’s population continues to grow, Warden numbers have not kept pace and for several decades, California has had the lowest number of Game Wardens per capita of any North American state or province.
Unlike other high-profile and well respected CA law enforcement professionals, CA Game Wardens applicants must have a minimum of 2 years of college education due to the technical diversity of the job. This means new Game Wardens join their communities with a higher education and experience requirement, and a higher level of educational debt, than most other CA peace officers.
Frequently working alone and far from backup, the risk level for Game Wardens remains very high. Game Wardens go toward the sound of gunfire. Likely due to the fact that nearly every person Game Wardens encounter is armed, national statistics show Game Wardens are seven times more likely to be assaulted with a deadly weapon than any other law enforcement officer.
Game Wardens are high-profile, high-demand officers who conduct complex, meaningful investigations and fill a unique, invaluable role in California. Their risk level is high—confronting thousands of armed suspects and constituents every year—being exposed to toxic chemicals during pollution responses and marijuana cultivation operations.
California Game Wardens' law enforcement role was nationally publicized in the 2013 manhunt for Christopher Dorner. Game Wardens actively patrolled the Big Bear area and ultimately engaged in a gun battle with Dorner, leaving several bullet holes in a Warden patrol truck and a bullet lodged in the seat 10” from the Warden’s head.
Fiscal responsibility is a priority in California and Game Wardens have worked with limited salaries and resources for many years. As legislatively created overtime for certain species and habitats
becomes available, thankful Game Wardens who are able to work extra hours and travel away from home to earn additional pay do so. However, as an example of how overtime does not replace salary and incentives, in 2014 one CA Warden worked 4 months worth of overtime hours (16-month work year) and still his yearly pay was $9,000 short of the average CHP Officer pay.
Due to limited staffing, Wardens are not assigned shifts and must plan patrols to best serve their local
constituents and resources. With few regional offices, Wardens work from home and are called away from family time to respond to poaching, pollution, oil spills, and a wide range of enforcement activities.
According to Sacramento Bee information, in 2014 average Game Warden annual pay ($77,800) was $40,000 less than average CHP Officer annual pay ($118,000).