What Do Conservation Officers Do?
The primary responsibilities of officers are to:
- Enforce laws related to hunting, trapping, fishing, navigation, commercial fishing, snowmobiling, and all-terrain vehicles.
- Investigate incidents involving outdoor recreation.
- Inspect game breeders, taxidermists, bait dealers, and other commercial users.
- Educate adults and children through hunter education, outdoor skills workshops, and other courses.
- Communicate with schools and community groups through public programs, and with the media through TV, newspaper, and radio shows.
Field officers typically cover one or two county territories. Recreational safety officers cover up to 19 counties and perform similar duties as field officer while coordinating safety education program and assist with investigations. Bureau supervisors oversee officer activities in regional offices across the state.
Officers' work schedules vary with the seasons and activities. They work most weekends, particularly in hunting seasons and summer holidays, and have two days off per week. Officers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week by radio and telephone. Most maintain offices in their homes and in their assigned work vehicles.
Equipment is an important part of a conservation officer's job. The DNR equips officers to perform their diverse duties with uniforms, firearms, and seasonal apparel including waders, snowmobile suits, and flotation devices.
Each officer is issued a patrol vehicle equipped with lights, siren, cell phone, computer, and radio. Other transportation tools include boats, snowmobiles, and all terrain vehicles.
After completing initial basic training at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, newly hired officers must complete the Probationary Conservation Officer Academy and Field Training Program. Officers then hone their skills through ongoing training in defensive tactics, firearms, communication skills, ice and swift water rescue, and law enforcement driving, to name a few topics. Many officers act as instructors for the bureau and other law enforcement agencies.
What It takes to Be an Officer
Conservation officers are usually highly motivated, independent workers. They tend to be career employees; turnover can be relatively low and hiring is competitive. However, for those who have a strong desire to work in natural resources and with the people who enjoy them, it can be a rewarding career.
Applications for full-time positions are selected through an extensive interview and testing process that includes a physical agility test, cognitive test, and psychological exam. They must meet all the requirements to be a state peace officer.
Candidates should have excellent communication skills, be flexible and adaptable, and act in a fair and ethical manner. Individuals selected as conservation officers usually have four-year degrees in fish and wildlife management, biology, criminal justice, or similar fields. Most also participate in outdoor recreation and have prior experience in natural resource fields.
Law Enforcement Bureau Mission Statement
It is the mission of the Law Enforcement Bureau to protect the State's natural resources, to provide public safety and to educate and serve the public. We enhance, promote, and protect the natural resources of this state through public relations, education, and law enforcement, thus ensuring for future generations the rights, privileges and benefits we now enjoy.