Agent's Training Class
What's the best job in the outdoors? Many people think it is being a conservation agent. If the number of applicants for that job in Missouri is any indication, they are right. Applications for a dozen openings in the Conservation Department's 1996 training class numbered about 1,000.
Today's conservation agents are skilled fish and wildlife experts, top notch law enforcement officers and fluent communicators. They may arise at 4 a.m. to go on a poacher stake-out or to be the host of a local radio show. They are skilled with firearms, but also know the psychology of dealing with people caught breaking the law.
They lead classes of youngsters on Stream Team outings, help reintroduce wildlife like otters and grouse and teach hunter education classes. And unlike days past, some are women.
The applicants selected for training are those who do well in interviews and who have good work experience in their backgrounds. Most of the trainees in conservation agents classes are not fresh out of college. Some have worked for the Conservation Department in other positions before applying for conservation agent training.
Requirements for these Conservation Department positions are an age of 21 by graduation day (to qualify as a peace officer) and a bachelor's degree in wildlife, forestry or fisheries management, criminal justice or journalism.
There is no maximum age, and the physical requirements are simply the ability to do a conservation agent's jobs - arresting wildlife violators, launching a boat, handling outboard motors or working with wild animals, some of which, like deer, can be heavy.
People selected for an agent class have six months of training ahead of them and, given the fact that they work on some weekends and most holidays, the training is all-consuming. Classes are certified by the Department of Public Safety's Peace Officer Standards in Training Program (POST) at the 1,000 hour level, although conservation agent trainees easily exceed that total during their six months of training.
Much of the training is done at the Conservation Department training building in Jefferson City. Trainees also work 200 hours in the field with conservation agents, and they spend two weeks at the Conservation Department's Fish and Wildlife Research Center in Columbia, a week at the Lake of the Ozarks for boat training and several days at the state forest nursery near Licking.
The bulk of the training is conducted by Conservation Department staff members. Conservation