Wardens ask: “How are we doing?”

Warden RelationsWhen FWP biologists count wildlife, they’re learning which direction populations are moving. By Tom Dickson

This story is featured in Montana Outdoors
November–December 2008

In 2007, the FWP Enforcement Division set out for the first time to learn how Montana hunters, anglers, park users, and other recreationists view game wardens and the agency’s game law enforcement program. “Wardens have more contact with more people in the field than anyone else in FWP,” says Tom Flowers, a regional criminal investigator based in Choteau. Flowers produced the survey as part of a special project at Colorado State University for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “We wanted to know how people perceived their interactions with wardens, what their attitudes were toward wardens, and specific strengths we should build on or where we need improvement.”
Flowers, working with public survey specialists in the FWP Responsive Management Unit, produced a questionnaire with 28 questions covering several general areas. The questionnaires were sent to 962 citizens who had previously been in contact with a game warden. A total of 554 surveys were com­-pleted and returned to FWP. Some results:

1. Impressions of game wardens
Overall, 92 percent of survey respondents viewed their experience in the field with a FWP warden as “positive” or “very positive.” Respondents indicated they would rate the particular warden they met as:

Professional
Agree: 33%
Agree Strongly: 61%

Courteous
Agree: 29%
Agree Strongly: 68%

Knowledgeable
Agree: 34%
Agree Strongly: 58%

Fair
Agree: 32%
Agree Strongly: 64%

Friendly
Agree: 27%
Agree Strongly: 71%

Eighty-three percent reported they thought FWP wardens overall are doing a “good” or “very good” job enforcing FWP laws and regulations.


2. Importance of duties
Respondents rated the relative importance of current FWP warden duties:

Enforce hunting rules/regulations
duty considered important or very important: 98%

Enforce fishing rules/regulations
duty considered important or very important: 95%

Enforce fishing access site rules/regulations
duty considered important or very important: 88%

Enforce state park rules/ regulations
duty considered important or very important: 82%

Patrol during hunting season
duty considered important or very important: 95%

Patrol during fishing season
duty considered important or very important: 91%

Patrol at fishing access sites
duty considered important or very important: 83%

Patrol state parks
duty considered important or very important: 76%


3. Effectiveness of enforcement tools
Respondents identified the relative efficacy of different ways wardens deter illegal activities. The highest ratings went to:

Random patrols
enforcement tool considered effective or very effective: 93%

Issuing citations
enforcement tool considered effective or very effective: 91%

Issuing written warnings
enforcement tool considered effective or very effective: 88%

Using random game check stations
enforcement tool considered effective or very effective: 88%

Less effective tools cited by respondents were scheduled patrols and using traditional game check stations.


Violations
FWP asked what people thought were the most common reasons for violating fish, wildlife, and parks laws. Fifty-eight percent of respondents answered that violations are most often due to an honest mistake or lack of knowledge regarding the law. Forty percent thought violators know the law but break it anyway when presented with the opportunity. Only 2 percent thought the most common reason was that people intentionally set out to violate the law.

Only 4 percent of the respondents thought violators are almost always caught, while 52 percent believed they are caught sometimes, and 44 percent said game law violators are hardly ever caught.

Jim Kropp, FWP Enforcement Division chief, says he and his staff are looking closely at these and other survey results. “What we take away from this is that Montana game wardens are considered professional, courteous, and fair by the vast majority of people they come into contact with,” he says. “It’s important to note that the the survey also shows that the public thinks we should continue emphasizing the enforcement of hunting and fishing rules and regulations as among our top duties, and that we should continue patrolling the field, especially using random patrols.”

Kropp says several new game wardens have recently joined FWP, “and this survey will help us demonstrate to them the high standards of public responsiveness that we strive for.”Bear bullet

[ BACK TO TOP ]