Georgia's DNR suffers shortage of game wardens

Sunday, May 28, 2018
(News 12 at 11)

APPLING, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's officially boating season and certain kinds of law enforcement officers will be out on the water with you too, keeping you safe and also caring for the state's natural resources. They're called game wardens and they're usually the first ones on scene of a natural disaster because of their training and equipment. But right now DNR is very shorthanded on game wardens.

They call themselves law enforcement off the pavement.

"We're the only ones that do what we do," Timmerman said.

Bobby Timmerman started as law enforcement on the pavement as a deputy sheriff in Richmond County. Now, he's out on the water as a game warden for DNR.

"We pretty much go wherever, anywhere in the state, you know, being a state officer you can be called anywhere at any time," Timmerman said.

"A game warden is a state police officer in Georgia that enforces the boating laws, the fishing laws, hunting laws and environmental laws," Sergeant Mike Barr said. "And actually we're state police officers so we can enforce any law."

Sergeant Mike Barr is going on 25 years with DNR. He says it a rewarding career, but there's not enough man power.

"We have 43 counties in Georgia that do not have a game warden directly assigned to the county," Barr said. "That doesn't mean we're not covering the county. We are doing that, but that's putting a little bit more work on the people that are surrounding those areas."

Timmerman is assigned to Clarks Hill Lake, but also is taking on six other counties because of the shortage.

"If you only have one guy covering Clarks Hill you're not hitting on a whole lot," Timmerman said. "You can only get to what you can."

And with memorial weekend, game wardens, like Nolan Callaway, are working twice as hard in his two counties.

"Due to the shortage, we can't get to each one because I'm only one person," Callaway said. "We have to really think what our location is and the priority with that complaint, but if we had more people it would really help us out."

Sergeant Barr says DNR is in hiring mode.

"We anticipate hopefully hiring another academy class that will start in January 2019," Barr said.

The problem is they need more people interested and connected to the outdoors. People like Taylor Bingham, who says this is his dream job.

"It's a gung ho job and it's what I want to do," Bingham said.

Bingham is a game warden intern and already has his application filled out and turned in. He says he's ready for a career off the pavement.

"Wherever they need me, that's where I go."

Their goal is to have at least one game warden per county. The next cutoff for hiring is May 31st so you've got a few more days. After that, 23 weeks of training will start. If you or someone you know is interested you can apply here --> www.gadnrle.org