Wildlife technicians/technologists provide support and services to scientists working in wildlife management and animal biology. The responsibilities of wildlife technicians/technologists are wide-ranging, depending on where in Canada they work. Generally, the work of wildlife technicians/technologists consists of collecting and analyzing samples, operating and maintaining laboratory field equipment, inputting and managing data, and preparing reports of findings.
Imagine you are sitting nestled in a bush near the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park. It is a cold, frosty fall morning and you are at the ready with your pencil and paper, staring at an animal overpass. This five-metre-high cement walkway stretches above the highway to give animals an undisturbed passageway across an otherwise dangerous piece of road. You are a wildlife technician/technologist and had come to perform a routine equipment check when you noticed a group of elk tentatively approach the bridge. Now you're waiting quietly so as not to disturb the animals, taking advantage of this opportunity to observe first-hand wildlife using the animal overpass.
As a wildlife technician/technologist, you have been taking an inventory of the animals that use the overpass and assessing how different species respond to the structure. You have come to this site this morning to check the camera equipment that records animal movements, making certain it is functioning properly. You have also come to check the sand traps at either end of the overpass. They show tracks of the animals that have crossed the bridge. You will record the species and numbers from the sand traps, then rake them clean.
The data you collect is part of a report on the success of the wildlife bridges that the park is preparing. If Banff's animal overpasses are a success, should there be more bridges like this one built across other busy roadways in Canada?
Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a wildlife technician/technologist:
Wildlife technicians/technologists work in a variety of locations, including:
In the field:
In the office:
In the lab:
There are a number of places wildlife technicians/technologists can find employment. They include:
If you are a high school student considering a career as a wildlife technician/technologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a wildlife technician/technologist is a technical diploma. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a wildlife technician/technologist, the following programs are most applicable:
Although it is not mandatory to become certified in order to work as a wildlife technician/technologist, some practitioners choose to apply for Professional Biologist status or become certified technicians or technologists. Requirements for these designations vary among provinces.
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Todd Powell remembers the day he heard that his hometown still conducted annual wolf bounties, where hunters were offered financial incentives to kill wolves. “It shocked me when I realized that we managed wildlife in such an archaic fashion.” At that point, Todd’s interest in how humans affect wildlife was sparked: “I knew I had to get more involved to learn more about what it means to manage wildlife.” More than 10 years later, Todd has a B.A. in Geography and a Master’s in Ecology from the University of Sherbrooke. The native Ontarian is currently a wildlife technician for the Yukon Territory. Todd spends most of his time in the field, managing a wildlife region of more than 100,000 square kilometres.
There is no such thing as a typical day for Todd. He can be found doing anything from netting caribou and tagging them with radio collars, to using GIS computer mapping to track wildlife or banding and studying different species of bats. This wildlife technician enjoys his job because he creates his own positive influence on the conservation of wildlife populations within his region. “I get a lot of job satisfaction in being able to see and understand wildlife.”
Todd’s advice for students considering a career as a wildlife technician is to stay in school. “Here I am with a Master of Science at a technician level. This job requires a lot of education, a lot of experience, and a very strong work ethic to find your way into a system like this.” Todd points out that working as a wildlife technician will not make him rich, but that his job “is very much a labour of love.” He is proudest when he’s able to “pass on the message about the value of wildlife and our effects and how we need to be aware of them.”