Wildlife Manager

Water being poured onto sedated Black Rhinoceros Damaraland, Namibia
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Wildlife managers are responsible for overseeing all aspects of wildlife conservation and management in a designated territory.


Wildlife managers must balance the interactions of animals, humans, and the environment in a specific area. Their duties may include conducting population surveys, determining optimal numbers for each species residing in the territory, protecting natural resources, ensuring that endangered species are protected properly, overseeing the repair of any significant damage to the habitat, and studying the relationships between different types of animals living within the territory. They may also be involved in drafting and enforcing game laws (including defining hunting seasons or hunting quotas to maintain proper population levels).

Wildlife managers may work with or supervise other staff members such as wildlife technicians, wildlife biologists, game wardens, wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife officers, administrative support staff, and volunteers.

Wildlife managers may have to travel long distances across the wildlife management area to perform their duties. It may be necessary to walk, hike, bike, ride horses, or utilize boats to conduct surveys of the territory and its inhabitants. Some evening, weekend, or holiday hours may be required from time to time. When working outdoors, a manager must be prepared to adjust to changing temperatures and inclement weather conditions.

Career Options

Most wildlife managers work in wildlife management areas, fisheries, hatcheries, preserves, and other related locations. The majority of positions are found with state departments of fish and wildlife or the federal government, but there are also privately owned wildlife management areas or consulting firms that may seek the services of a qualified wildlife manager.

Wildlife managers can also readily transition into other related wildlife management positions such as wildlife inspector or zoo curator.

Education and Training

Most wildlife managers must hold a four-year degree in wildlife biology, ecology, zoology, animal science, or a closely related biological field. A familiarity with computer-based technology, the ability to handle animals, excellent communication skills, and knowledge of animal taxonomy will all prove beneficial to candidates entering this field. Technology, the ability to handle animals, excellent communication skills, and knowledge of animal taxonomy will all prove beneficial to candidates entering this field.

For positions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, candidates seeking refuge manager opportunities must either have a Bachelor of Science degree in biology (or a closely related field) or an equivalent combination of education and experience that is deemed to be equal to a degree. The U.S. FWS website also includes specific hourly educational requirements and suggested coursework.

Hands-on experience in the field of wildlife management can greatly enhance a candidate’s chances of being hired as a wildlife manager. Many wildlife managers start out as wildlife technicians or in other related roles to gain the necessary experience and network within the field. Completing wildlife internships can also improve a candidate’s resume and contacts in the industry.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not maintain a separate survey category for wildlife managers, but it does include them under the more general category of wildlife biologists and zoologists. The mean annual earnings for all wildlife biologists came in at $57,430 in the 2010 BLS salary study. The lowest 10 percent of wildlife biologists earned under $35,660 per year, while the highest 10 percent earned over $93,450 per year. The highest paying positions were found with the federal government ($71,110), research and development ($63,740), state government ($52,360), and consulting services ($50,040).

Indeed.com cited a similar average salary for wildlife managers, reporting a rate of $61,000 per year as of December 2013. SimplyHired.com found a slightly lower average rate of pay for wildlife managers, with a December 2013 average salary of $48,000 per year. Both salary averages fall well within the range indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey results.

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics survey projects that growth for the field of wildlife biology will be slightly slower than the average for all professions, expanding at a rate of about 7 percent. Candidates with the requisite education and relevant experience will continue to enjoy the best job prospects in this wildlife career.