There will be 10 new game wardens heading into the field this spring and scattering across the state to learn from their colleagues about the art of protecting Maine’s natural resources. After months of arduous training and tests, the newest wardens — all Maine natives — graduated last week from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro.
The new game wardens are Kale O’Leary from Fort Kent, Harry Wiegman from Leeds, Taylor Valente from Gray-New Gloucester, Kyle Franklin from Durham, John Carter from Orrington, Nick Raymond from Winslow, Lauren Roddy from Belgrade, Kayle Hamilton from Buxton, and Megan Miller from Pittsfield.
“We have a pretty extensive hiring process,” said Miller, who is now one of just five female game wardens in Maine, a state that employs about 120 full-time game wardens.
“I hope none of my peers look at me differently, and I don’t think they do,” Miller said about joining the male-dominated service. “It’s just one of those things. I don’t try to make a big deal out of it. I worked my butt off, and I know they all worked their butts off to get here, too.”
Miller and her fellow graduates recently completed an 18-week Basic Law Enforcement Training Program, which is required of all full-time Maine police officers, followed by a 12-week advanced academy, created specifically for Maine game wardens. This advanced academy included training in search and rescue, recreational vehicle crash investigation, snowmobiling, water survival, physical fitness, Jiu Jitsu, public relations, bureau policies and procedures and much more.
This comprehensive training, which comes after the new game wardens are officially hired, is one component of the onboarding process. Beginning with a hiring process that can last months, applicants must first complete a written and oral exam about hunting and fishing, as well as problem solving and human interactions. For each candidate who passes these exams, the Maine Warden Service conducts thorough background test, as well as a polygraph test, psychological test, fitness test and swimming test. Throughout this hiring process, the pool of candidates is whittled down, and the final candidates are interviewed by the leader of the Maine Warden Service — the Colonel.
“It takes a lot of drive,” said Miller. “It takes a certain type of person. You’re going to be knocked down, and you’re probably going to be rejected the first few times you apply, but you have to get back up and prove you want to do this.”
Miller originally applied to be a deputy game warden, which is a part-time position for Maine’s busy summer months, and she didn’t get the job. She then applied to be a full-time game warden, going through the hiring process all over again, and was hired.
“That first application process helped me prepare for this time,” said Miller, who graduated from Unity College, where she studied conservation law enforcement.
“Starting out, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a game warden,” she said. “But I did some internships and decided this would really be great. I’ll get paid to do fun things like riding my snowmobile, and meanwhile I’ll get to make a difference and protect our state’s resources.”
Miller is especially eager to help with search and rescue cases, and someday hopes to join the Maine Warden Service’s specialty canine team, which uses trained dogs to find lost people and solve certain fish and game cases.
Miller’s fellow graduate, Harry Wiegman, had an even longer path to becoming a full-time game warden. Since 2013, Wiegman has worked seasonally as a deputy warden, serving first in the Belgrade region, followed by Greenville then York County.
“I kind of had a three-year job interview. I got to bounce around [the state] a lot and build my experience,” Wiegman said. “It’s been a long road. I’m kind of glad to settle down and get into it.”
The new game wardens have already been assigned what areas they will patrol. Wiegman will be headed to the Rangeley District, and Miller will be stationed in the Mars Hill District. In addition, new wardens O’Leary will be stationed in the Masardis District; Valente will be going to the Rockwood District; Franklin is going to the Estcourt Station District; Carter is going to the Blue Hill District; Raymond is going to the Fort Kent District; and Hamilton is going to the Clayton Lake District.