BANGOR, Maine — Maine game wardens play a crucial part in protecting the state’s natural resources and enforcing recreational vehicle laws. For the past four to five years, Maine has been experiencing a shortage of conservation officers, according to Sgt. Tom McKenney of the Maine Warden Service.
"A lot of people are choosing to do other things, at this point," McKenney. "We are getting to the point where we’re losing a lot of people to retirement and things like that, so I guess, both of those areas we’re struggling to keep ahead of it.”
The Maine Warden Service recently had 14 vacancies across the state, but it was able to recruit seven new hires who are now training.
"We expect to have [the new recruits] in the field probably by spring of next year in an operational role," McKenney explained.
Despite the new hires, the service is still seven wardens short of what they need. That strain is being felt across the state including in Bangor.
“Whether it's in law enforcement or whether it's in any other job that people do, when you’re short-staffed, it’s difficult,” Lt. Aaron Cross, who's based in Bangor, said. “Our calls for service continue to go up every year whether it's in the greater Bangor region or anywhere else in the state.”
Cross said they're short several workers in their Bangor office, and it's putting more stress on him and his colleagues.
"Calls from the public are on the rise and we have fewer people to answer those calls, but we're going to continue to [answer those calls], as we move forward," Cross said.
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As McKenney explained, game wardens in more rural parts of Maine may feel the effects of the shortage more.
"In the northern part of the state, you have townships, so [wardens] may have a bigger geographic area," McKenney explained. "On any given day, [wardens are] responsible for those towns and the calls they get in those towns. If you have a vacancy to the left and right of you, the area that you're responding to is just much larger, which would effect a timely response."
As the seven newest recruits train, the hunt for more game wardens will continue.
“It’s really important that we continue to identify and try to recruit, and attract qualified candidates, and that’s one of our primary focuses right now," Cross said.
You can find more information and apply to become a game warden here.