Wildlife Watch: Becoming a Vermont game warden

Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 7:00 PM EDT
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MILTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Game wardens are assigned to every corner of the state. Our Ike Bendavid learned more about what it takes to be a Vermont warden and met two of the new trainees.

John Truong and Louis Daversa are in month one of their on-the-job training. They are two of the four trainees set to become game wardens.

They didn’t follow the normal path to get here.

Truong’s parents moved to America from Vietnam. He grew up in Burlington and was on a different career path.

“I was on track to be a dentist, so I went to biological sciences and I decided that this wasn’t the route for me. So, I went back to a passion of mine back in fourth grade where I wanted to be a zoologist, and that came from my parents relying on the natural resources growing up and fishing was part of our life,” Truong said. “I love animals, I love natural resources, I love the outdoors, I think wildlife biology is the way to go.”

Daversa is from the Poughkeepsie area.

“Originally I didn’t have a big background in fish and wildlife,” Daversa said.

But while attending Paul Smith’s College, he developed a passion for the outdoors.

“I’m a big hunter and fisherman,” Daversa said.

With that foundation and their nontraditional backgrounds, the two are on their way to becoming game wardens.

“One of the things that I-- that is unique for me and seems is becoming more common now with game wardens is that some of us didn’t grow up with hunting and fishing. Some might do one or the other, but never the combo of two. So being able to pick it up as an adult, I think I have a unique perspective on how to do that as an adult and hope to be a mentor for future folks,” Truong said.

“Being in a position I once was where I wasn’t too familiar with the outdoors, it’s kind of an intimidating task to go out there and start learning. So if I can implement my skills to help someone else that was in my position, that would be great,” Daversa said.

These trainees have done four months at the police academy for basic law enforcement, then warden school for three weeks and now they are in their eight months of on-the-job training.

“Every game warden trainee goes through roughly 1,400 hours of training before they are assigned their district and can work solo. They work one on one with a field training officer around the state. Every month they travel to a different part of the state and work with a different field training officer. That allows them to see the diversity of the state, the different hunting and fishing seasons and try to create that bottom foundation that they can develop to eventually become a district solo warden on their own,” said Jeremy Schmid, a senior game warden and one of the field training officers.

Schmid says being a warden, you wear many hats as you will respond to a broad range of calls.

“We enforce all hunting, fishing, trapping regulations within the state of Vermont. We are also deputized as federal agents, so we enforce waterfowl laws and migratory bird laws. On top of that, we do all ATV, boat and snowmobile laws,” Schmid said. “On top of that, we do a lot with wildlife-human conflicts, like a troublesome bear in a residential neighborhood or a resort to nuisance wildlife getting into garbage and crops.”

He adds with open positions around the state, there is always a need for wardens and the training takes time.

“They are months away from being assigned. We could lose two, three, maybe four retirements by the time they are assigned,” Schmid said.

As the training continues, the future wardens say they are ready and excited to start.

“Wearing this badge is a great honor because being able to relay that back to a community that may not know the law so well, just because there may be language barriers or there may just be-- not necessarily fear of the police, but just unfamiliarity with the law enforcement that’s in the community, kind of being someone that could be approachable and friendly and out there and different to show that this is something like oh I could partake in,” Truong said.

“I have the opportunity uniquely to enforce hunting and fishing laws, and also playing an educational role for someone who may have been in my position previously who wasn’t familiar with the outdoors,” Daversa said.