Real Talk w/CJ: Texas Game Warden Ellis Powell

Real Talk with CJ

Wed Sep 26, 2012
2:00 pm - 3:00pm
CJ Cafe (CJava)

Game Warden Ellis Powell wrestles an alligator.
Game Warden Ellis Powell wrestles an alligator.

As a Texas Game Warden, Ellis Powell’s main job is to protect the natural resources of the state. But on any given day, he may help back up local law enforcement officers, participate in disaster response or enforce boating laws on the state’s waterways.

It’s all part of his job as a licensed peace officer at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

Ellis assists Homeland Security along the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo.
Ellis assists Homeland Security along the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo.

“In this day and age of tighter budgets, we do a lot more than protect the resources,” said Powell, a 2002 Sam Houston State University graduate who has worked as a Game Warden for nearly 10 years. “Eighty percent of the 254 counties in Texas are still rural. If a state trooper or constable needs assistance, it falls to the game warden. We also have primary responsibility for disaster response and primary responsibility for marine enforcement in the state.”

Powell works in Newton County, a rural lumbering county which sits at the farthest southern and eastern corner of the state. As the defender of state resources, Powell enforces bag and size limits on fish and game, as well as hunting and fishing seasons and equipment that can be used. Those laws are based on scientific data from biologists, landowners and the general public.

Powell seized illegal fishing nets on the Sabine River.
“If these laws are not adhered to, the resources can be hurt,” said Powell. “If you don’t follow the law, the resources won’t be here for future generations.”

Take the Eastern Turkey, for example. Earlier this century, the popular species was hunted almost to extinction in the state. With the help of the National Wild Turkey Foundation, the TPWD reintroduced the species and there is now a healthy population that can be hunted in the state.

In addition to enforcing state fish and game laws, game wardens have all the powers of licensed peace officers in the state and their jurisdiction covers all of Texas. They also are responsible for enforcing the Texas Water Safety Act, which covers the operations and equipment required on boats. These include such things as making sure there are life vests or fire extinguishers on board.

Powell’s job changes with the seasons, depending on the prime activities in the area. In summer months, he is likely to hit the water in places like Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn Lake or the Trinity River for water safety issues. During hunting season, he is usually in the back woods. In the spring, he may be back on the water enforcing fishing regulations.

Powell patrols the Bolivar Peninsula following Hurricane Ike.
Powell patrols the Bolivar Peninsula following Hurricane Ike.
In times of disaster, he may be anywhere. During Hurricane Ike, he was sent to New Orleans for a week to evacuate hospitals. During Hurricane Rita, he was managing traffic in his own area from people fleeing the storm. Without power for 27 days, Powell had to enforce a curfew and to arrange security, food and water for residents of his county.
To do his job, Powell has access to multiple modes of transportation, including a truck, two boats and four wheel vehicles.

Powell assists the Houston Police Department Dive Team.
Powell assists the Houston Police Department Dive Team."

Powell works closely with other law enforcement agencies and has been sent around the state on special assignments. These include patrolling the Rio Grande, assisting Homeland Security on the Mexican border, or helping fellow wardens in Central and North Texas. He also is a member of the Search and Rescue Dive Team, which assists in recovering victims and evidence from waterways.

“This job is never boring,” said Powell. “There is not one day that I have been on this job that I said it is boring.”

Powell came to his career as a game warden after spending 11 years in a lucrative job in retail finance. He cashed in his 401K to get his degree at Sam Houston State University and did three internships in Game Warden Offices around the state. Powell said the job is very competitive, with 600-700 people applying for just 20 openings.

“It takes about a year to get through the process and I had to apply two times,” Powell said.

At Real Talk w/CJ, Powell plans to provide an overview of the job, the diversity of assignments, the hiring process and how life changes as a law enforcement officer.

Member of The Texas State University System