January 26, 2007
State game wardens fall to the control of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and while their main mission is usually conducted in the woods, authorities say their enforcement powers go much further.
"Our officers are trained in full police procedures and methods as well as specialized Game Warden training" said Major Dabney Watts of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Until the shooting in Greene County several days ago, not many besides those in the law enforcement community, knew about game wardens.
The mission of the 182 wardens statewide is to enforce the commonwealth's boating, fishing and hunting laws but their responsibility extends much further.
"Of course we cooperate and assist other state, local and federal agencies in the performance of their duties" said Major Steve Pike of the department.
Those duties include search and rescue missions like the search for William Morva, the man accussed of killing two people in Blacksburg in August before leading authorities on a 36 hour manhunt. The department was called to aid in the search because of their knowledge of the surroundings.
"Our officers have a lot of expertise especially when it comes to activities around a woodland environment" said Watts.
And while the Morva case ended without the need for deadly force, Major Watts says wardens are trained in case the need arises.
"We are fully empowered police officers in the Commonwealth. We do make other arrests in the performance of our main mission" said Watts.
It has been 6 years since a game warden has been involved in a fatal shooting. The warden involved in Wednesday night's shooting is currently on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
After the shooting, the warden was treated for minor injuries at the UVa Medical Center and released that night.