Conservation Officer Overview

DNR conservation officer talking to a hunter in the woods

Michigan conservation officers (COs) are fully commissioned as state peace officers, with full power and authority to enforce Michigan's criminal laws. Michigan's first salaried position as a conservation officer - or game warden, as it was known then - was held in 1887.

In the early days, these officers were charged mainly with enforcing fish and game regulations. The mission of the Department of Natural Resources' Law Enforcement Division has expanded substantially since then and now includes protection of all natural resources and the environment, as well as the health and safety of the public.

conservation officer with a fishCOs are a unique class of law enforcement officer, whose duties include enforcing regulations for outdoor recreational activities such as off-road vehicle (ORV) use, snowmobiling, boating, hunting and fishing. They also are empowered to arrest those who commit felonies, misdemeanors and civil violations of Michigan law.

Conservation officers, along with other support staff within the Law Enforcement Division, have a wide array of responsibilities in addition to enforcement, including education, recreational safety and public outreach.

They, at times, will work jointly with every branch of law enforcement, whether it's federal, state, local or tribal. COs often take part in multi-agency operations, patrols and training exercises with the U.S. Coast Guard, Michigan State Police, county sheriff departments, city police departments, U.S. Customs, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and tribal agencies.

conservation officer talking to snowmobilerConservation officers take pride in maintaining the highest level of professionalism as they carry out the duties of a physically and mentally demanding career.

Click here for more information about becoming a conservation officer.

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