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March 24, 2018

Abbey McEnroe/Lakeland TimesWisconsin DNR conservation wardens Jon Scharbarth and Matthew Meade present “A Day in the Life of a Conservation Warden” to participants at the Wisconsin DNR warden career day on Saturday, March 3.
Abbey McEnroe/Lakeland Times

Wisconsin DNR conservation wardens Jon Scharbarth and Matthew Meade present “A Day in the Life of a Conservation Warden” to participants at the Wisconsin DNR warden career day on Saturday, March 3.
3/10/2018 7:28:00 AM
Large turnout for Warden Career Day
About 140 registrants for Wisconsin DNR's event at LUHS
Abbey McEnroe
of the Lakeland Times

For the fifth year in a row, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hosted a Conservation Warden Career Day, this year being the first time the event came to the Northern Highlands region of Wisconsin.

The event, held on Saturday at Lakeland Union High School, saw a turnout of about 140 people from throughout Wisconsin, ranging from age 14 to mid 40s.

The event began just before 10 a.m. outside of LUHS. Participants had a chance to view equipment the DNR uses as well as speak with local wardens one-on-one.

The day progressed into four presentations; "The Conservation Warden Hiring Process," "How to Prepare Today for the Job Tomorrow," "A Day in the Life of a Conservation Warden," and "The First Year: The Training Experience."

WI DNR assistant training director Jeff King said most participants look forward to learning about the hiring process.

"That's probably the highlight," King said. "People can learn about what the job is like, all of those other sidebar conversations from several sources, but how you get hired, that's what people seem to appreciate the most."

King said the program is set up so participants are able to feel a personal connection with the wardens present, allowing them to learn about the job at a deeper level.

"It's that one-on-one connection that the people get to have with their wardens (that) is really invaluable," King expressed. "A lot of times the wardens that are here are taking people under their wing and doing ride alongs with them. It's just a great experience all around, whether you're the warden that's getting to meet somebody new that wants their job or the young man or woman that wants this job some day."

Since the career day began five years ago, King says yearly applicants have ranged from 700 on the low end to 999.

With so many applicants, those who only have the minimum requirements often do not make the cut.

"You have to have an associates degree and 60 college credits to be a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin, you can't have less than that," King explained. "But, we have 999 people applying sometimes, so you don't want to do the minimum."

In the most recent hiring process, King said there were 17 new hires; 15 of the hires have a bachelor's degree in the natural resources field while the other two have an associate's degree, have completed the police academy and have years of law enforcement experience.

"We look at the whole candidate, not just the degree hanging on the wall, it's the whole person; what they've done in education, what they've done to prepare, civic engagement, volunteer and community service, your own hobbies and recreations," King added. "Not many employers care if their employers go fishing but we do, because you learn a lot."

While applicants are about 85 percent men and 15 percent women, King says the DNR is working to close that gaps.

For those interested in applying for a conservation warden position, King suggests shadowing a warden.

"Come do something like this (event), then do a ride along with a warden to get exposed to what it is we do," King suggested. "It's the best job in the world but with any job there's good and bad so I want people to really know what they're getting into. So, call, do ride alongs, learn as much as you can, come to an event like this, get as much information as you can so you know what you're getting into. It's all about transparency and knowing what you're signing up for."

Currently, the DNR is looking to hire recreation wardens. These wardens focus on boating, ATVs and snowmobiles and have not been open to hiring for years.

King encourages anyone contemplating applying to call or text him with questions at 608-219-4887 or email him at

Abbey McEnroe may be reached via email at

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