For the first time in its 122-year history, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will call its law-enforcement officers “state game wardens.”

The change will take effect on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

“The job titles previously used to describe our field officers — game protector and wildlife conservation officer — didn’t fully identify their unique and diverse responsibilities,” Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said in a news release. “The goal here is to more clearly identify our officers and their purpose. We believe ‘state game warden’ will help communicate this.

“In addition, this title already is well understood by the public,” Burhans said. “The word ‘warden’ is America’s oldest title for the men and women who serve wildlife in this capacity.”

Since the recodification of the state’s Game and Wildlife Code in 1987, field officers were titled wildlife conservation officers. Before that, they were called district game protectors. The Game Commission believed that neither title resonated with the public. Many never associated them with Game Commission officers.

Game wardens are known by many different titles depending upon the state wildlife agency for which they work. The titles reflect the varying sets of broad duties they fulfill. Most wardens share a basic duty to enforce the laws that regulate hunting and protect wildlife and the environment. However, their duties also extend into education, research and a host of conservation programs.

For example, Pennsylvania game wardens coordinate and supervise hunter-trapper education programs. They also represent the agency at conservation and sportsmen’s club meetings, respond to nuisance wildlife complaints and deal with injured wildlife and suspected rabid-animal calls. Warden work also includes wildlife surveys, wildlife trap-and-transfer, field research and providing programs to civic groups and public schools.

“It was the variety of work, which has accompanied the position since game protectors were defined by law in 1895, that inspired the former titles our officers have had,” Burhans said in the news release.

Burhans said that the public often wonders what game wardens do outside of the hunting season.

“There is no “off” season for our officers,” he said in the news release. “The breadth of responsibilities is what sets game wardens apart from other traditional law-enforcement professionals. Being a game warden requires a very unique person willing and able develop a diversity of skills in support of the agency.”

Burhans said renaming full-time agency officers "game wardens" will help the public know what these officers do.

Game wardens are sworn peace officers with statewide law-enforcement authority. They are expected to know and follow standards for protecting civil rights, gathering evidence that will hold up in court and prosecute violations of many different laws. 

“As one of the most familiar faces of our agency, it is critical that that game wardens are recognized for who they are and what they do,” Burhans said in the news release. “Anything less is unacceptable.”

Information for this this story was provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.