Park wardens are responsible for implementing natural resource management, public safety, and law enforcement programs within Canada’s national parks system. They are involved in a variety of activities, including assisting scientists with research, monitoring wildlife, capturing and relocating animals when necessary, making public presentations, liaising with visitors, and providing first aid and search and rescue support. Park wardens use their educational background and work experience to monitor ecological concerns and maintain the environmental health of Canada’s national parks.
Imagine you are very slowly and very quietly approaching a 130-kilogram female grizzly bear. You are a park warden in Jasper National Park and you know how careful you have to be around these bears. This grizzly is a little anxious: she has been caught in one of your snares and has a cable wrapped around one of her feet to keep her in place. Once you are close enough, you shoot the bear with a tranquilizer dart. Within minutes, she is asleep.
With the huge predator temporarily immobilized, you motion to the park's chief wildlife biologist that it is safe to approach. You help the wildlife biologist take some quick measurements and attach a GPS collar, after which you retrieve your tranquilizer dart and remove the snare from her leg. When the bear wakes up, she will be free to carry on, and you will be off on another task. As a park warden, you monitor and manage wildlife. This week, you are helping wildlife biologists attach Global Positioning System (GPS) collars to some of the grizzly bears that live in the park. This is the first year GPS collars will be used in Jasper and you're excited about the possibilities. These new collars use satellites to pinpoint and record the bears? location several times a day. Biologists can download this data and map the bears? movement, which will contribute to long-term management and conservation plans.
For your job, though, you are more interested in the advantages of being able to tell at any moment precisely where a collared grizzly is. You will be able to see when bears are near hiking trails and warn visitors to be cautious or stay away. Or if one of these bears starts hanging around campgrounds and becomes a threat, it will be easy to find it with the GPS collar and relocate it to another area of the park. Considering that one of your major functions as a park warden is to protect wildlife and humans from each other, these GPS collars will certainly make your job easier.
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a park warden:
Park wardens work in a variety of locations, including:
In the office:
In the field:
Most park wardens are employed by national parks and federal agencies responsible for environmental legislation and enforcement.
If you are a high school student considering a career as a park warden, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a park warden is a technical diploma. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a park warden, the following programs are most applicable:
In some cases, park wardens must also pass a criminal record check and a physical fitness exam. They may also be required to take weapons and defence training and should consider taking a diploma in law enforcement or the equivalent.
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“I could essentially strap on my snowshoes in the garage, cross the street, and wander off into the park,” recalls Yann Troutet about growing up next to Gatineau Park, a 363-square-kilometre park near Ottawa. “I think living next to the park made a huge difference in my personal development. It made quite an impression on me.” Indeed, it was a lasting impression, as Yann went on to complete an undergraduate degree in environmental science and now works for Parks Canada as a park warden. “The main attraction to this job is the ability to combine my love of science with my love of the outdoors.”
Today, Yann is stationed at the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada in northeastern Quebec. The day-to-day work of a park warden is anything but mundane: “I can be called upon to respond to anything from public safety concerns to law enforcement incidents, but my primary responsibility is to act as the park’s wildlife warden.” As such, Yann spends half his time at his desk. There he can be found contacting other park staff, answering questions from the public, and developing protocols and plans for wildlife surveys and environmental assessments within the park.
He also participates in the park’s education and outreach initiatives: “Sometimes I work with area residents and visitors who want to take part in park education activities.” Other times, Yann can be found preparing presentations and publications that report the scientific results of his work. Over the past few years, Parks Canada has become increasingly focussed on protecting its parks’ ecosystems. This emphasis can be seen in Yann’s fieldwork. “All my projects have a direct link to the field. I get a chance both to assist scientists conducting experiments in the park and to implement research of my own.
Much of the science I do revolves around monitoring the wildlife populations of the park.” One drawback of Yann’s work is having to work and live in remote locations, but that also comes with some perks. “Though the human contact is often richer in a town, I get to trade off a night out at the theatre with a day out in my kayak.” The work hours for a park warden also vary greatly. “Sometimes you’re called upon to work evenings and weekends. And you can’t take much time off during summer.” But Yann says the positive aspects of his job far outweigh the negative. “I get to travel and gain an intimate knowledge of some of the most beautiful places in Canada. Knowing that my work helps to preserve the ecological integrity of these places for present and future generations is very gratifying.”