From City Girl to Game Warden
A passion for nature inspired Wei-Wei Startz ’11 to become Texas’ first Asian American female game warden.
- By Jeannie Ralston
- Photography by Josh Huskin
- May. 16, 20223 min read
Wei-Wei Startz’s calling to become a Texas game warden began on the coast of her native Taiwan, where she went for family fishing trips in her early years. After immigrating to Texas with her mother and sister, she grew up in Arlington—a self-described “city girl.” But frequent excursions to her grandparents’ farm in Comanche County cemented her love of nature and propelled her to become the state’s first female Asian American game warden and a regular on Animal Planet’s “Lone Star Law.”
What sparked your interest in nature and conservation?
Every chance I could, I’d visit my grandparents’ farm. We’d look for arrowheads; we’d fish in the creek. My family would also hunt, and it upset me when they brought back “Bambi’s mom.” Later, I realized how nice it was to have a freezer full of meat. We were harvesting these animals and putting them to use. That’s how I was taught: Nothing goes to waste.
How did you choose your career?
When we hunted or fished, my dad and grandpa always said we had to do it right—measure the fish or measure the antlers and tag the deer. I remember thinking it was a lot of rules, and it wasn’t fair that I didn’t see other people following them. I realized then what I wanted to do: enforce conservation law. When I’ve traveled back to Taiwan, it’s so overfished you’d be happy to catch a few fish more than 5 inches long. It’s neat to see what conservation law can accomplish.
How did your studies at Texas A&M University help you become a game warden?
My amazing professors gave me a good foundation, especially with wildlife identification. Texas A&M has a massive facility with taxidermy and specimens from all over the world. Plus, I gained a broad background taking courses in ornithology, entomology and dendrology—the studies of birds, insects and trees, respectively.
What’s it like to be on the show “Lone Star Law”?
I’m doing my regular job, but I happen to have a whole camera crew following me, which is a whole other dynamic. They’ve filmed me for about seven years, ever since I was a “baby game warden.” They don’t pay me, but sometimes it comes with perks. For instance, the crew filmed my wedding. They’re like family.
What does it mean to you to be the first female Asian American game warden?
When I was growing up, I watched the show “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet, which had a blond-haired woman who was so inspiring that I thought, “I want to be like her.” I’m always asking how we can reach more people, especially of different ethnicities. I want to be the person someone sees and says, “Hey, I look like that. I can do that too.” Even if I influence one person, that’s really rewarding.
How does being an Aggie influence how you do your job?
What sticks in my mind is, “An Aggie doesn’t lie, cheat or steal.” The game warden academy emphasized that integrity is so essential in this job. Most of the time, we’re on duty by ourselves. My Aggie ring reminds me I have to keep that integrity.
Make a Donation: You can support passionate faculty in Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences by donating to the Nova Silvy Fellowship in Wildlife and Fisheries Science at give.am/wild.
About Wei-Wei Startz '11
Wei-Wei Startz '11 began her career as a game warden in Tarrant County, then moved to San Patricio County in the Aransas Pass-Corpus District. Before her career in conservation, she earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M in 2011. She is currently assigned to Guadalupe County.