HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Less than a week into the process, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has nearly reached its maximum number of applicants seeking to become wildlife conservation officers.
When announcing recruitment for the 31st class of the Ross Leffler School of Conservation last month, PGC indicated it would accept applications between March 1 and April 1, or until 600 applications were received.
“As of this morning, 523 had applied already,” spokesman Travis Lau said. “So we’re definitely coming down the home stretch. There is still an opportunity for someone to apply.”
According to Lau, once the application process is complete, PGC will spend months whittling down the candidate pool by examining civil service exam scores, conducting oral exams, interviews and other forms of vetting. Eventually, a group of finalists will be selected to enter a training program in order to fill as many as 35 WCO vacancies across the state. The class will begin in March 2018 with graduation in March 2019.
Lau says cadets will undergo an intensive 51-week training program to prepare them for the many law enforcement and other tasks a WCO encounters on a daily basis. Officers typically cover a range of at least 350 square miles and respond to a wide array of calls including nuisance bears, injured or diseased wildlife, property disputes, hunter mistake kills and poaching. In many cases, Lau says there is an element of danger.
“When handling an animal, alive or dead, that can be dangerous,” he said. “In many cases, when investigating a potential violation of Game Code, there can be danger because certainly they’re dealing with people who have firearms or have some sort of sporting arm with them.”
Lau says efforts are made, when possible, to assign the newest WCOs to areas close to home or where they have lived previously. However, all officers must go into training knowing they and their families could be required to relocate to an area where there is a vacancy.
“Of course, you always have the other cadets who want to see something new,” Lau said. “And they want to move to the most rugged part of Pennsylvania and work there with our storied big game.”