Country World Archives 2001-2008

Rural Rites: Texas game wardens’ authority spelled out

By KARI KRAMER | East Texas Edition

Oct. 27, 2005 - With fall firearms white-tail deer season fast approaching, landowners may begin seeing unfamiliar faces in the area, among those will be the Texas game wardens.

Texas game wardens work for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD throughout the year, but attempt to become more visible during major hunting seasons in order to curb violations in the state.

TPWD employs more than 500 law enforcement specialists throughout the state. These figures carry a great deal of authority and responsibility. They enforce all areas of the TPWD code, regulations, Texas Penal Code and several specific regulations that relate to the environment.

In 2004, Texas game wardens became federally commissioned. According to TPWD, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to provide training to TPWD game wardens about federal laws and their enforcement. Texas game wardens then had the authority to make arrests and seizures in federal wildlife violations. In return, TPWD offered training to federal agents and provided them with jurisdiction within the state of Texas.

The State of Texas provides a spectrum of authority to the state’s game wardens. Game wardens, for scientific and investigative purposes, can take wildlife into their possession. They may also seize any pelts and living or dead aquatic life they suspect has been taken in violation of TPWD codes.

In addition, if a game warden believes a person has violated any statute, code, or regulation under his or her authority, he or she is authorized to inspect any license, permit, or tag issued by TPWD, any device used to hunt or trap wildlife, and the contents of containers that are capable of storing wildlife and wildlife resources. Furthermore, under Chapter 12 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, game wardens may inspect any wildlife resource that is in plain view of a peace officer. Anyone over the age of 17, engaging in activities under the jurisdiction of TPWD (such as hunting or fishing) should, at all times, have a driver’s license or state issued identification card in their possession for review.

TPWD law enforcement officials may also seize any equipment believed to have been involved in the unlawful taking of fish or wildlife. According to the state code, if a person is found guilty of allegations brought against them, the seized items will be auctioned by TPWD and the funds received will be deposited in an appropriate state account. In addition, seized aquatic equipment can be donated to institutions of learning for the purpose of education.

Game wardens can perform seizures and inspections in a person’s home, temporary residence (such as tents, hotel rooms, and campers), on roadways, and public property. 

Property owners should be aware that in most cases, a game warden can enter private property. In Chapter 12 section 103, the code states, “An authorized employee of the department may enter on any land or water where wild game or fish are known to range or stray. No action may be sustained against an  employee of the department to prevent his entering on land or water  when acting in his official capacity.” 

However, the code established, if a game warden enters privately-owned land and obtains information, without the written consent of a landowner, that information must be carefully protected. The information that is not directly relevant to any current investigation or research cannot be utilized for additional purposes or entered into a database accessible or maintained by anyone other than the investigating game warden. If this information is disseminated without the landowner’s written consent, the landowner make seek civil damages of $1,000 from the department in the county of residence or in the county the land is located, should they differ.

To view the chapters and contents of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, visit:

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/statutes/pw.toc.htm.  To locate your local game warden office and phone number visit:

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/warden/find_warden/index.phtml. TPWD’s general phone number is 1-800-792-1112.

If a property owner suspects illegal taking of game on their property, they should contact Operation Game Thief, a division of TPWD. Their number is 1-800-792-GAME (4263).