Niobrara County welcomes first female game warden

LUSK – New Lusk District Senior Game Warden Kelli Pauling from Lingle has been serving Niobrara County since May 2021.

Pauling grew up in Lingle and, as a child and into her years as a teenager, she spent most of her time outside. Growing up on a farm meant she learned to work in and love the outdoors. Pauling eventually graduated from the University of Wyoming with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management and Biology.

After graduation, Pauling began conservation efforts for sage grouse in Colorado but never forgot her home in Wyoming. She kept her eyes open for the opportunity to return. When the game warden opening in Niobrara County appeared, she grabbed at the chance and became Niobrara County’s first female game warden.

“I wanted to get back to Wyoming because it’s my home state and I kind of wanted to work there,” she said.

Pauling has enjoyed her time as game warden so far. She particularly enjoys the opportunities she has to participate in and lead education efforts at local schools.

“I get to teach classes and education programs in the school district, which I really like doing those things for the kids, and I have a bit of background in that out of Colorado,” she said.

Game wardens like Pauling play an important role in law enforcement and environmental conservation. Pauling’s duties include ensuring every hunter and fisher has the appropriate license for their sport, making sure those licenses are current, leading education efforts pertaining to the importance of the laws she enforces and handing out what can sometimes be hefty fines for breaking the law. Those fines can sometimes be up to $10,000 for a high misdemeanor.

Pauling believes in the importance of the game warden role. As game warden, she has the opportunity to connect with people who come from all over to fish and hunt. She also gets the chance to work with biologists and farmers to protect and grow local wildlife.

“The job is kind of a third enforcement, a third education and a third biology,” she said. “We help our biologists quite a bit with doing antelope counts during the summer and deer and elk counts throughout the year...We’re doing disease stuff and surveys and getting to know landowners and kind of helping the herd or the populations of wildlife be their best here in Wyoming.”