Conservation Officer Trainee, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks / Division of Wildlife


Job Title: Conservation Officer Trainee

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

Location: statewide

Organization Overview: 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.


  • Enforce conservation, parks, and other laws and provide for public safety; manage wildlife, fisheries, water, and land resources; implement and deliver 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 ability 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.


  • 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.
  • 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; and 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; 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 and regulations; agency policies that govern hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, and snowmobiling; court and criminal procedures; rules of evidence collection and preservation; and criminal investigation techniques.
  • Skills to identify native fish, wildlife, and plants; collect and preserve evidence; provide effective courtroom testimony; interview witnesses and suspects; 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, park law enforcement, fish and wildlife management, and hunter/angler access opportunities; deliver wildlife damage program services; de-escalate conflicts and problem solve; operate boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, firearms, and other specialized equipment; and effectively present educational and outreach programs.

Salary/Pay: 24.00-30.85 per hour

Application Deadline: June 30

How to Apply: Please view the full online Job Description with instructions for the online application.