The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has promoted former Lt. Nathan Erdman to serve as assistant chief of the Law Enforcement Division.
Lt. Col. Erdman, 43, most recently served as a game warden supervisor based in Okfuskee County prior to his new assignment to the agency's Oklahoma City headquarters. He takes over for Col. Bill Hale, who was promoted to chief of Law Enforcement on July 1.
Erdman said he knew early in his life that he wanted to work as a game warden. "I grew up in the country, hunting and fishing." As a student at Okemah High School, he recalls asking his guidance counselor what classes would be required to become a game warden.
Erdman earned a fish and wildlife management degree at Northeastern State University, and was hired as a game warden shortly after he graduated. His first assignment was in Beaver County in the Panhandle, which he said was a shocking change of surroundings. "I went from trees and water to no trees and no water," he said.
"As a game warden, it's getting out there and trying to make a difference," Erdman said. "When a landowner would stop you and thank you for helping with a problem, that's when you know they appreciate what you do and they like you being out there."
Game wardens must do their job well, as they are constantly in the public eye. They are expected to know all there is to know about hunting, fishing, wildlife laws, wildlife management, camping and other outdoor activities as well as general information about their county.
Game wardens are public servants sworn to protect wildlife and the public's interests in the outdoors. These certified peace officers have statewide jurisdiction to act on any law violation. They check licenses and bag limits of hunters and anglers. Oftentimes wardens may have to wait, day or night, for long periods in concealed locations to nab the poachers who are stealing fish and game.
Game warden Erdman spent 13 years in Beaver then transferred to his home Okfuskee County in 2007. A year later, he was promoted to supervisor in District 4, where he worked until he began as assistant chief this month. He has worked for the Wildlife Department for 21 years.
The assistant chief of Law Enforcement helps oversee the division of about 120 people, the largest of the Department's five divisions. The division consists of game wardens, game warden supervisors and eight district chiefs. Central office staff includes the chief and assistant chief, a training coordinator and a secretary.
The Law Enforcement Division is responsible for upholding the laws and regulations that protect Oklahoma's wildlife resources. Game wardens interact with the public. They often spend time visiting landowners in their county, encouraging them to allow ethical hunters and anglers on their land to harvest the surplus wildlife. They may assist the landowner with poaching problems or give them information about stocking fish in a pond.
They occasionally visit with sportsmen's clubs, schools, scout groups and civic groups. They may speak about new laws and regulations, or about some topic directly related to hunting or fishing. They may also pass along printed information published by the Wildlife Department. Game wardens also frequently help teach hunter education courses and fishing clinics.
Lt. Col. Nathan Erdman