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A wildlife manager's primary responsibility is to help ensure that wild animals, including fish, maintain healthy population sizes and live in healthy habitats. In terms of population size, this means that a wildlife manager will work to make sure that certain species of animals neither grow too large in number nor run the risk of becoming extinct. Protecting habitats may involve the management of wildlife sanctuaries and refuges.
The actual activities that wildlife managers engage in vary from hands-on work to research and analysis. They typically evaluate animal habitats and collect data on animals, fish, and plants. Direct contact with animals, on the other hand, may involve catching animals to relocate them or taking biological samples to assess the health of a species or environment.
The work also varies depending on location. For example, the types of animals and habitats would be different in a forest than in a desert, and different in a warm climate than in a cold one. One constant is that a wildlife manager works mainly outdoors, often on public lands. In the US, a wildlife manager frequently works for federal, state, or local governments, though private, non-profit organizations that focus on animals and the environment also employ wildlife managers.
Since wildlife managers do a lot of hands-on work in the outdoors, the job can be strenuous, and as a result, anyone interested in this field should be physically fit. He or she should be ready to run and track animals, if necessary, and travel on foot over various terrains. Additionally, managers should be relatively nimble, as they might need to work in small spaces.
Wildlife managers also need to know the laws concerning wildlife and land use in the jurisdictions in which they work. They might have to enforce recreational laws, such as those relating to where all-terrain vehicles or boats may travel. Some managers also serve as law enforcement officers who protect wildlife and their environs. Since they do have specialized experience in wildlife management, wildlife managers may also serve as advisors for new environmental or wildlife regulations.
There is a public relations aspect to the job of wildlife manager as well. Presentations to school groups or other organizations may be required, or they may be asked to field phone calls from area residents about nuisance animals. For example, a person may call wanting to know what to do about bats or opossums in his house, and the wildlife manager might provide the resident with some assistance.
A wildlife manager might sometimes be called a game warden, though that term is becoming antiquated. As the name suggests, a game warden is responsible only for game animals, and protecting them from wild animals, often on a private game reserve. Game wardens might also enforce hunting and fishing regulations, helping to set hunting or fishing quotas as well. In many cases, the position of game warden has evolved into that of a wildlife manager — protecting all wildlife, not just game. In other instances, the game warden is still responsible only for game animals.
Wildlife managers often have educational backgrounds in a related field, such as biology, forestry, environmental science, or ecology. Job advertisements in the US often list a four-year degree in a related field as a requirement. Perhaps one of the most important requirements for becoming a wildlife manager, however, is a love for animals and the environment.