State seeks 18 new wildlife officers
By Kristine Gill
Competition will be steep and the application process thorough for 18 positions as county wildlife officers in the state.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division is accepting applications through Friday.
Human Resources administrator Michele Ward-Tackett said she’s expecting between 500 and 700 people to apply for the six-month-long application process. Those accepted for the positions will continue with a six-month academy-training program before being placed into one of the vacant county positions.
“You keep getting acceptance letters after each step,” said Trumbull County wildlife officer Hollie Fluharty. “You just wait by the mail.”
But the wait was worth it for the Hocking College and West Virginia University grad who majored in wildlife and fisheries resources. All applicants must have either a law-enforcement or wildlife related education.
“I have the greatest job,” Fluharty said.
A typical day in Trumbull County varies by the season. In the spring, Fluharty is busy checking fishermen for proper licenses, permits and practices. Other times she responds to calls for injured or abandoned animals.
Like the other 87 officers, she works mainly from her truck and makeshift office traveling to different hunting or fishing sites and talking with people in the field.
“Our schedules are great. Our hours based on what we need to do. We don’t clock in anywhere,” she said.
That’s one of the reasons the application process is so intense. Wildlife officers work on their own and have to be motivated, said Columbiana wildlife officer Scott Angelo. The region’s offices are in Akron, but officers don’t frequently report there.
“It’s not [like] a typical law-enforcement job would be, where you answer to a sergeant or lieutenant every day. You have a supervisor, but you have to decide what you’re going to do when you’re going to do it,” he said.
The hiring process also includes a polygraph test, a psychological exam, a criminal-background check, drug testing and extensive interviews with friends and neighbors.
“They want to get a feel for who you are,” Angelo said.
At the end of the process, those who are accepted will be placed in any Ohio county. After serving in that assigned position, officers can apply to move to other counties.
Like Fluharty, Angelo’s typical day varies. He takes wildlife surveys in his county checking for turkey or pheasant populations in an area in the spring. He makes sure fishermen aren’t littering in lakes and along shores. Some days he speaks at Rotary clubs. He works regularly with local law enforcement.
“You could be writing some guy a ticket and 15 minutes later going to a hunter-education course,” he said.
As a graduate of Ohio State University and Hocking College with associate and bachelor’s degrees in wildlife management, a love of the outdoors is what drew Angelo to the position.
“I grew up fishing and hunting,” he said. “I have that kind of love for the sport.”
Fluharty is one of two women in the state with her position but encourages other women to apply.
“I’ve never felt like I was at a disadvantage,” she said.
Ward-Tackett said starting salary for the positions is $35,000.
To apply, visit http://careers.ohio.gov/.