Conservation Officer Trainee, Department of Game, Fish, and Parks

South Dakota

Position Title: Conservation Officer Trainee 

Organization: Department of Game, Fish and Parks / Division of Wildlife

Why the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks?

This is a full time position with the Department of Game, Fish and Parks. For more information on the Department of Game, Fish and Parks, please visit Working for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks is not just a job. It is a life passion. It is about working together as a team with colleagues, customers, landowners, and partner organizations to ensure that our state’s outdoor heritage lives on for the next generation. Providing exceptional outdoor recreational opportunities for people to enjoy is one of the best jobs in state government. Our atmosphere empowers professional success and team building, while fostering relationships to build a culture focused on our four strategic plan goals:

  • Provide outdoor recreational opportunities.
  • Serve as stewards of our state’s natural resources.
  • Inspire confidence.
  • Foster professional excellence.

All we need is you to join our team! Sound like a good fit so far? As a South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks employee, here is what you will experience:

  • Innovation– the GFP team is consistently revolutionizing enhancements to outdoor recreation in terms of technology and customer experience. We invite new ideas and interaction from our employees.
  • Collaboration and Communication– our employees work with various teams, programs, and divisions within the agency, outside state and federal agencies, and public stakeholders. We want all employees to know that their voice will be heard as we continuously work towards our future goals.
  • Professional Development– We provide training and support for you to become an expert in the field and obtain the skills necessary to be successful in your position.
  • Task Diversity– the work duties are never boring. Your duties may include meetings with coworkers, collaborating with other government representatives, representing the Department at Commission meetings and national conferences, visiting one of our state parks and recreation areas, or working to enhance habitat on a game production area. The outdoors provides for a pretty nice corner office!

Who We’re Looking For?

  • Exceptional interpersonal communication skills; the ability to deal effectively with people, especially in stressful situations; strong writing skills, the ability to speak in public; effective organizational skills; competent problem solving skills.
  • Knowledge of Conservation and parks law enforcement principles, practices, techniques and tactics; fish, wildlife and habitat conservation and park management practices; biological principles and practices pertaining to fish and wildlife; and an understanding of habitat management practices beneficial to fish and wildlife; agency programs that promote public access; wildlife damage management techniques and practices; state and federal laws, regulations and agency policies that govern hunting, fishing, trapping, boating and snowmobiling; court and criminal procedures, rules of evidence collection and preservation and criminal investigative techniques.
  • Skills to identify native fish, wildlife, and plants; collect and preserve evidence and provide effective courtroom testimony; interview witnesses and suspects and write clear and concise reports; effectively collect data while conducting fish and wildlife surveys and make sound fish and wildlife harvest recommendations.
  • Ability to effectively deal with people from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds; establish and maintain relationships with landowners, sportsmen, and park users; promote conservation and park law enforcement, fish and wildlife management, hunter/angler access opportunities; deliver wildlife damage program services; de-escalate conflict and problem solve; operate boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, firearms and other specialized equipment; and effectively present educational and outreach programs.

What You Will Do

  • Enforce conservation, parks, and other laws and provides for public safety; manage wildlife, fisheries, water, and land resources; implement and delivers department programs and services; represent the department to the public; secure hunter and angler access; and provide for recreational opportunities.
  • These are positions in training to become fully certified Conservation Officers (CO) for the Division of Wildlife. CO Trainees must enter the training program with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities in the areas of expertise related to fish and wildlife management, they cannot be gained from the training programs provided.
  • CO Trainees begin by entering the SD Law Enforcement Training Academy in Pierre and complete thirteen weeks of training in a general law enforcement curriculum. In order to retain employment and proceed to the next phase of training, incumbents must graduate from the Academy and become certified as law enforcement officers in South Dakota.
  • Incumbents are then assigned to the Conservation Officer Field Training Program and spend approximately fifteen weeks in a field assignment designed to train them in various functions of conservation and park law enforcement, community policing, and problem solving; plus additional classroom training in wildlife, fisheries, and habitat management. This program requires the incumbents to travel extensively throughout the state. Wildlife Training Officers (WTO’s) function as mentors during the program and evaluate the performance of CO Trainees on specific training tasks and on their abilities to apply knowledge and skills in field situations.
  • Upon successful completion of both training programs, Conservation Officer Trainees are converted to a Conservation Officer at a pay grade GI. They may be temporarily assigned to regional wildlife offices in Rapid City, Watertown, Chamberlain, or Sioux Falls until permanent duty stations are available. Incumbents must be willing to accept any vacant duty station in South Dakota. Conservation Officers function in five primary areas: wildlife and wildlife damage management, fisheries management, land and habitat management, conservation and parks law enforcement, and public relations.

The Ideal Candidate Will Have

  • Reached 21 years of age at the time of application, have a valid driver’s license, be or become a certified law enforcement officer in the State of South Dakota, successfully complete an extensive department field training program for conservation officers, and pass semi-annual qualifications in defensive tactics and firearms.
  • Be required to undergo a thorough background investigation and successfully complete psychological testing and a polygraph examination. A physical exam is also required for this position. An arrest/conviction will not necessarily bar employment. This is a safety sensitive position and incumbent is subject to State of South Dakota drug testing requirements. Incumbent will be required to work a significant number of weekends throughout the year, especially during primary fishing, hunting and park seasons, outdoors and sometimes in extreme weather and under arduous physical conditions.
  • A Bachelor’s of science wildlife and fisheries or equivalent degree and/or experience is preferred.

What South Dakota has to Offer
South Dakota is centrally located in the U.S. and boasts the beautiful Missouri River and Black Hills. Our state has a rich frontier history and is a premier outdoor destination, offering some of the best outdoor recreation opportunities in the nation. Fishing, hunting, and photography are all popular activities that offer year-round opportunities for residents. Multiple state parks are ideal getaways for camping, hiking and biking. Many towns offer the amenities of a larger city but with a small-town feel.

Game, Fish and Parks has office locations throughout South Dakota and remote work may be possible.

If you enjoy a career that is both exciting and challenging and want to make a difference in public service, we’d like to hear from you! 

Additional Requirements: The candidate must provide copies of high school/college diplomas and college transcripts upon request. 


Successful applicant(s) will be required to undergo a background investigation. An arrest/conviction record will not necessarily bar employment. Successful applicant(s) will undergo an abuse and neglect screening. Offers of employment are conditional upon successful completion of a drug screening.


If you possess a National Career Readiness Certificate, please submit the certificate with your application. For more information on how to acquire a National Career Readiness Certificate contact a South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation Job Service Office. A certificate is not necessary to be considered.

The State of South Dakota does not sponsor work visas for new or existing employees. All persons hired will be required to verify identity and eligibility to work in the United States and complete an Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9. The State of South Dakota as an employer will be using E-Verify to complete employment eligibility verification upon hire.

The State of South Dakota offers employer paid health insurance plus ten paid holidays, generous vacation and sick leave accrual, dental, vision, and other insurance options, and retirement benefits. You can view our benefits information at This position is a member of Class A retirement under SDRS.

Salary: $22.56 per hour

How to Apply: 

You must apply online, emailed resumes or submissions will not be accepted. Visit the link below. The application closes September 2nd, 2021.
For more information, contact South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources
Telephone: 605.773.3148 Email: