Game Wardens spend less than half their time policing hunting and fishing

wardens patch colorEarlier this year I asked the Maine Warden Service for the latest data on how they spend their time. Unfortunately, the most recent report was issued in 2013. Nothing since then. So that’s the report I obtained from them. The 53 page report is interesting and includes information about where their money comes from, trends in registrations and license sales, calls for service, and summaries of the work in each district.

But it’s how they spend their time that was of most interest to me. Here is that information:

28.5%   Enforcement of hunting, trapping, and wildlife laws and rules

19.5%    Enforcement of fishing laws and rules

14.9%    Administration/Reports

10.9%   Training

8.4%      Enforcement of watercraft laws and rules

4.9%      Enforcement of snowmobile laws and rules

4.3%      General law enforcement

3.2%      Enforcement of ATV laws and rules

2.6%      Search and Rescue

2%         Wildlife/Human conflicts

0.8%     Assist other agencies

While wardens may be best known for their enforcement of hunting, trapping, and fishing laws and rules, that work takes less than half their time. I thought it was surprising that they spent only .8% of their time assisting other agencies, because I often read in the news of their involvement in everything from high-speed chases to murders. Maybe that is included in the general law enforcement category, where they spent 4.3% of their time.


85% of the funding for the Maine Warden Service came from the sale of licenses, permits, and registrations. 9% came from federal funds, and 6% from other special revenue.

Federal grant funds came from the United States Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing program.

Special revenue comes from a portion of the nonresident snowmobile registrations, land and river protection sticker fees, whitewater rafting head and allocation fees, ATV enforcement grant program, and the supersport license fees. That money pays for equipment, training, and personnel costs related with the regulation, licensing, and enforcement of the activities that generate the funding.

81% of their total funding was spent on personal services which includes salaries, overtime, insurance, and retirement costs.


Game wardens report “inspecting” an average of 134,000 sportsmen and women every year. Average annual inspections are:

36,000   hunters

35,000  snowmobilers

34,000 anglers

14,000  boaters

13,500   ATV riders

1,500    trappers

“Game Wardens are essentially the front door for the Bureau of Warden Service and often provide the only opportunity for sportspeople to engage in conversations with an IF&W employee,” notes the 2013 report. “Inspections are critical to the mission of the Warden Service for both public relations and enforcement purposes. Both share an equally important role for the future of the bureau.”

Calls for Service

Game wardens got 22,285 calls for service in 2013. “Calls are generated from the public and can range drastically from a simple information request to the reporting of a fatal crash or a lost child,” notes the report. Here’s how those calls broke out:

4,162    injured/dead wildlife

2,397    information requests

1,952    Nuisance animals

1,791    hunting

795       ATVs

543       Boating

364       Trespass

317        Snowmobiles

197        Fishing

Search and Rescue

Game Wardens received 391 search and rescue calls in 2013. “Typical searches that game wardens respond to,” noted the report, “include lost children, overdue hikers, missing Alzheimer persons, lost hunters and anglers, overdue snowmobilers, and missing despondent individuals.”

Here’s how the 2013 search and rescue calls broke out:

88    hikers

62    boaters

61    mental health

51    other

35    lost child

34    lost hunter

27    snowmobilers

16    lost angler

8     suicide

6     lost ATV rider

3    aircraft

Increased drug abuse

I thought this summary from Division E was interesting, and certainly of great concern.

“We saw an alarming increase of drug abuse in the field while performing our warden duties and tasks. Wardens assisted MDEA this past year on numerous occasions with dealing with methamphetamine labs and synthetic bath salts. On three different occasions, while working ATV and snowmobile enforcement, subjects were found with large amounts of bath salts. One incident led to an arrest after the operator dragged a warden down a trail and we were lucky he received only skinned knees. Three men were arrested while a warden was working fishing activity in the Presque Isle area one night after observing them using heroin. A felony marijuana apprehension was made along the East Branch of the Penobscot River as well.”

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.