When Dan Menard applied to become an Maine Game Warden back in the early 1990s, the Warden Service was typically inundated with applicants. The year he successfully made it through the process, 1,700 others applied for the chance to become wardens.
“They hired 10, and I think I was number 10,” Menard said.
Now a Warden Sergeant in charge of overseeing the hiring process, Menard said the number of applicants has dropped over the past 20 years, with all law enforcement agencies affected.
“I’ve been managing the hiring process since 2008, and the most applicants we’ve ever had [over that span] is 80, and the least is 47,” Menard said.
Menard said that the Maine Warden Service will take a few steps to try to increase the pool of potential wardens during this hiring cycle, which kicked off today.
“We’ve had a condensed hiring process,” Menard explained. “It’s been open six weeks [in past years]. We’re going to keep it open three months in hopes of getting more people involved.”
Applications will be accepted between now and June 22.
Menard said those interested in learning more about a career as a game warden can go to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website. A complete list of qualifications and a description of the process is available under tabs for “Game Wardens” and “Employment Opportunities.”
Menard said the warden service has also decided to reach out to potential applicants in different regions of the state.
“We’ve had trouble filling opportunities in rural areas like Aroostook and Washington counties, so we’re going to hold informational meetings for people in those areas that maybe had no idea that they wanted to be a game warden, or maybe don’t know what it takes.”
Informational meetings that are scheduled:
— Fort Kent Town Office, April 6, 6-8 p.m.
— Houlton Public Safety Building, April 7, 6-8 p.m.
— Presque Isle Police Department building, April 8, 6-8 p.m.
— Washington Academy in East Machias, April 14, 6-8 p.m.
— Foxcroft Academy student center in Dover-Foxcroft, April 15, 6-8 p.m.
— Cabela’s in Scarborough, May 9, noon-4 p.m.
Menard said many people assume that a college degree is required to become a game warden — it isn’t — and said he thinks the warden service has been missing out on potential applicants who haven’t fully understood how they could become part of an organization that has been in existence for 130 years.
“We are very selective on how we [choose wardens], but we’d like a bigger applicant pool than we currently have,” Menard said. “[We’re looking for] people who have enjoyed hunting, fishing and the outdoors but have no idea that they’d even qualify to be a game warden. They don’t know what the restrictions are. We’re going to try to find out if there are people who are good candidates who just say, ‘I’d never qualify to be a game warden.’”
The Maine Warden Service has become more recognizable due to its participation in the Animal Planet TV show “North Woods Law,” but the popularity of the show hasn’t necessarily led to more people pursuing a career in the warden service, Menard said.
“The ‘North Woods Law’ thing is great, but we’re not seeing applications increase that much, really,” he said. “What we’re thinking is that [the show] may help eight or 10 years down the road, when the little shavers that have been waiting in line for three hours for an autograph [at ‘North Woods Law’ events] are going to come up and say, ‘Hey, I want to be a game warden and start down that path.’”