Conservation Officer Trainee, South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks

Statewide, SD

Position Title: Conservation Officer Trainee

Organization: Game, Fish, & Parks

Location: Statewide, SD

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 the 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. Game, Fish and Parks’ atmosphere empowers professional success and team building, while fostering relationships to build a culture focused on four strategic plan goals:

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

All that is needed is you to join the 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. The team invites new ideas and interaction from employees.
  • Collaboration and Communication– Employees work with various teams, programs, and divisions within the agency, outside state and federal agencies, and public stakeholders. GFP wants all employees to know that their voice will be heard as the team continuously work towards future goals.
  • Professional Development– GFP provides 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 meeting with coworkers, collaborating with other government representatives, representing the Department at commission meetings and national conferences, visiting one of South Dakota’s state parks and recreation areas, or working to enhance habitat on a game production area. The outdoors provide for a pretty nice corner office!


  • Enforce conservation, parks and other laws and provides for public safety; manages wildlife, fisheries, water, and land resources; implements and delivers department programs and services; represents the department to the public; secures hunter and angler access; and provides 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • Copies of high school/college diplomas and college transcripts to provide upon request. A bachelor’s of science wildlife and fisheries or equivalent degree and/or experience is preferred.
  • A valid driver’s license, be or become (through reciprocity) 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.
  • Been 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.

Salary/Pay: $24.00 to $30.85 per hour, depending on experience + benefits

Application Deadline: October 18

How to Apply: Please use the online application to view the full job description as well as how to apply.