The protection of Virginia's natural resources is one of the primary responsibilities of a Conservation Police Officer (CPO). As officers patrol the vast and diverse geographical expanses of the Commonwealth, they are ever-vigilant in enforcing the laws related to hunting, fishing, and boating; educating the public; and offering assistance in a wide variety of enforcement activities—all to promote a safe environment for citizens and visitors alike.
Conservation Police Officers are highly motivated, independent, and well-trained members of the law enforcement community. They are often called upon by other state and local enforcement agencies to assist with various enforcement endeavors, due in part to their ability to deal with a complex array of issues in an expedient and professional manner. Whether working a youth fishing day, tracking a violent offender over rough terrain, providing law enforcement services in the wake of a natural disaster or during the post 9/11 aftershock, Conservation Police Officers are always ready and willing to serve.
The Law Enforcement Division currently has 174 Conservation Police Officers including ten senior staff and 164 supervisory and field personnel. All are fully certified officers through the Department of Criminal Justice Services, with the authority to enforce all of the laws of Virginia. As Deputy US Fish and Wildlife Special Agents, they may also conduct investigations and cross state lines when violations of federal wildlife laws have been committed.
Serving the Public
The Department is always interested in hearing from those we serve. In order to learn more about the experiences and perceptions of anglers, boaters, and hunters with regard to law enforcement operations, the Department contracted with an independent external company (Responsive Management). In June 2012, Responsive Management conducted a scientific telephone survey of more than 1,200 people with at least 400 individuals who identified themselves as belonging to each of the three target audiences. Please review the report entitled Virginia Hunters', Anglers', and Boaters' Opinions Of and Satisfaction With the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Law Enforcement Activities (PDF).
- 2012 Annual Report (PDF)
Contacting a CPO & Reporting Violations
Every year, Conservation Police Officers inspect thousands of people hunting, fishing, and boating in the Commonwealth. In instances of non-compliance with established laws and regulations, officers may warn, summons, or arrest violators. While patrols in four-wheel drive vehicles, ATVs, boats, or on foot are the most common means of detecting violations, a significant number of arrests are made as the result of thorough investigations of information provided by sportsmen and sportswomen.
Contact a Local Officer
Careers & Training
In 1916, the Virginia General Assembly established the Game Commission and charged it with managing the fisheries and wildlife resources of the Commonwealth. At that time, Game Wardens (a title changed to Conservation Police Officer in 2008) were political appointees who served at the pleasure of local officials in their areas of assignment. They learned on the job with little formal training except that provided by local sheriff and police department personnel.
Today's Conservation Police
Much has changed in the hiring, recruitment, and training processes since those early days. Today, applicants interested in a career in natural resources law enforcement are likely to compete with nearly a thousand others for the privilege of obtaining one of the few positions to attend our state-of-the-art training academy and experience our comprehensive law enforcement training curriculum.
Interested in Becoming a CPO?
Before pursuing this career path, candidates should consider both the attraction of working outdoors as well as the inherent dangers of the profession. If you have the ability to rise to such demands, then you may very well have what it takes to become a Virginia Conservation Police Officer! To learn more about qualifications and duties, take a look at the CPO Careers page.
Education & Outreach
Conservation Police Officers are the most visible representatives of the agency and contact thousands of citizens each year. In these contacts, CPOs educate and redirect the actions of users to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations necessary to prevent abuses to the resources and help people enjoy outdoor opportunities in a safe and ethical manner. In this capacity, Hunter Education and Boating Safety Education are extremely important duties in the role of Conservation Police Officers as educators and public safety practitioners.
Hunter Education is mandatory for 12-15 year old and first-time hunters. Hunter Education courses are designed to teach hunting safety, principles of conservation, and sportsmanship. There is no charge for Virginia Hunter Education classes. A dedicated cadre of nearly 1,000 trained volunteer instructors works with Conservation Police Officers to train 14,000 students each year.
In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly enacted a law to establish a boating safety education compliance requirement. This requirement will be phased in over the next several years and by 2016, all operators of PWCs (Personal Watercraft such as jet skis, Sea Doos, Wave Runners) and operators of Motorboats with a 10 hp or greater motor, will be required to have a boating safety education course completion card on board when operating a PWC or Motorboat.
The K-9 Team
To address the demands of the public in providing a comprehensive list of services, the Department has developed a K-9 investigative team within the Law Enforcement Division. In partnership with the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia, three K-9 units were placed into service in May 2011. The program was so successful in its first year of operation, with numerous arrests and lost/missing persons found, that two more K-9 units were added in May 2012.
The “CPO Notebook”
Are you curious about recent law enforcement activity in your area and throughout Virginia? VDGIF is making it easy to keep up with what is going on around the Commonwealth with a segment found in the Outdoor Report, the "CPO Notebook". Each issue contains valuable information relevant to agency initiatives and includes a sampling of the enforcement activities occurring throughout the state. Conservation Police Officers provide detailed information which will keep the reader informed on important enforcement activities.