Sunday, 03 March 2024

California Outdoors: What should I study in college to become a wildlife officer?

A class of wildlife officers. Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Becoming a wildlife officer

Q: I’m starting college in the fall and am ultimately interested in becoming a wildlife officer. What’s the best degree to earn that will help me qualify for the job?

A: Thank you for your question! Before you start your education journey and before you apply, it is important to understand we have certain minimum qualifications for education that must be met.

You must have a total of 60 semester units of college (no degree required). Within those 60 semester units, you must have 18 semester units in the biological sciences, police science or law enforcement, natural resources conservation, ecology or other “related” fields.

This 18 semester unit requirement does not have to be your degree field and the units needed to fulfill this requirement can be taken from your general education or from other accredited college classes you have taken.

Students who have 30 semester units of college and have 18 semester units completed (within the 30 units), in the required or related fields, can apply. You must complete the remaining 30 semester units during the hiring process before you are hired.

CDFW has determined that “related fields” include, but are not limited to: Animal Science, botany, chemistry, conservation, ecology, entomology, environmental management, environmental science, environmental studies, fisheries or wildlife management, forestry, geography, geology, herpetology, life science, mammalogy, marine biology, natural resources, oceanography, ornithology, physics, psychology, plant taxonomy, water quality management, wilderness survival and zoology.

So, to answer your original question:

If you meet the above requirements, study what you love. Earning a two-year or four-year degree is not mandatory but would potentially make you a more competitive applicant.

Our wildlife officers frequently follow the obvious courses of study such as criminal justice, wildlife biology or environmental studies, but we also have an English major wildlife officer who has taught report writing at our Academy for many years and a former chemistry major who worked as a chemist before he became a wildlife officer. Now he specializes in criminal pollution investigations.

There are many other examples where a wildlife officer’s educational background or personal area of expertise is applicable to our work. Those with excellent computer skills have proved to be a valuable resource in investigating internet wildlife trafficking, or poaching crimes that were discovered when a suspect posted their violation or tried to sell the poached wildlife online.

We hope you continue to pursue your educational and career goals of wildlife law enforcement and someday bring your unique talents to our Law Enforcement Division.

If you are interested in becoming a wildlife officer, you must turn in your application prior to July 31, 2021, in order to be considered for the next hiring cycle.

Please contact our LED recruiter, Lt. Perry Schultz, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

Sea urchins

Q: Can I go tide-pooling for sea urchins in the San Francisco Bay Area?

A: Yes, in general, you can collect sea urchins in San Francisco Bay from shore with a fishing license and a take limit of no more than 35 urchins for each species.

The take of invertebrates in ocean waters is covered in California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 14, section 29.05. Section 29.05(a) prohibits the take of invertebrates at night, except from the shore, in San Francisco and San Pablo bays and saltwater tributaries east of the Golden Gate Bridge.

There are different regulations that apply to certain areas outside San Francisco Bay that can be found in Section 29.06.

There are also areas up and down the state, known as Marine Protected Areas, which are off-limits to the harvesting of any marine life (see section 29.05(b)). Information on Marine Protected Areas in the San Francisco Bay Area can be found on CDFW’s website.

Selling tuna on a chartered fishing trip

Q: Can I sell yellowfin tuna to a friend while on an ocean fishing trip?

A: No. California Fish and Game Code (FGC) section 7121 states that it is unlawful to sell or purchase any fish or amphibia taken under the authority of a sport fishing license. This would include any fish or amphibia taken in, or brought into, the waters of the state, or brought ashore. 

Also note that the definition of “sell” in this context, per FGC section 75, would include offers to sell, barter, exchange or trade. You can donate your tuna to your friend as long as there’s no expectation or agreement to receive something of value in return.

On a trip like this, sharing a fresh caught tuna for a meal among fellow anglers while out at sea is not only legal but a great way to build camaraderie while on your trip. However, it would be unlawful to sell or trade tuna to your friend or anyone else.

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