The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced that their Division of Wildlife is instituting a wildlife K-9 program.
The dogs will be used to help uphold the ODNR’s mission: “To ensure a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all,” according to Division of Wildlife Chief Mike Miller.
The dogs will save the division man hours and help curtail illegal activities, Miller said.
These highly skilled K-9s will be trained to detect a wide variety of scents, including hidden wild game such as white-tailed deer, turkey, waterfowl, and fish. The dogs could also assist in locating invasive species and difficult to find and monitor non-game native species such the state endangered timber rattlesnake.
Other things that the dogs will be trained to sniff out include gun powder and the federally regulated root crop, ginseng, of which the department sells confiscated stashes — as recently as three weeks ago when the department obtained $83,000 from a sale of the medicinal herb.
They will also have the ability to track people and will be used to find lost hunters as well as people hunting without permission.
Starting next week, three K-9s — two German shepherds named Finn and Mattis, and a black Labrador retriever named May — and the wildlife officer handlers will begin a 10-week training academy where they will master their skills.
A single wildlife officer from each of Ohio’s five wildlife districts will become handlers for the dogs.
The program will be in line with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy standards for law enforcement K-9s in Ohio, plus additional advanced training in wildlife detection.
“The K-9s will not be trained in drug detection or as cadaver dogs,” Miller said. “Those are with our complimentary, sister division, Parks and Watercraft.”
The dogs will be friendly and socialized to participate in conservation programs and youth events, allowing people to meet them and ask questions about ODNR’s newest law enforcement members.
For more information, visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.