California DFG Adds K-9s to Poaching Arsenal

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The Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) new K-9 Program creates new tools in the fight against poaching while increasing California's homeland security. A demonstration of the dogs' abilities was held for the media on Oct. 24.

"Our K-9s add depth to the abilities of our Game Wardens to stop criminal activities," said Nancy Foley, DFG Enforcement Chief. "The dogs' detection abilities will speed up searches while also providing protection for their handlers."

Studies estimate that police service dogs can save as much as 800 personnel hours annually. With DFG's Game Warden force stretched so thin, the dogs will make patrols that much more effective.

All of the DFG dogs will be trained in detecting quagga mussels, an invasive freshwater mussel that threatens California's economy and environment. The dogs will also be able to detect ammunitions and associated odors, providing California with an additional level of homeland security. While some dogs will be detection only, others will also be trained to apprehend suspects as well.

Depending upon where the dogs are deployed, additional detection training will be given for: bear, bear galls, deer, fish, elk, abalone, and waterfowl.

"A dog's scent ability has been estimated to be up to a million times stronger than humans," said Lynette Shimek, K-9 handler and coordinator. "When dealing with something as small as quagga mussels or waterfowl hidden in the trunk of a vehicle, a dog will let us know quickly that something is not right."

DFG plans to train up to 24 dogs. The first dog academy is set to begin in November and will consist of six dogs and handlers who will be trained in obedience and detection. In addition to standard patrol support, the dogs will be able to assist with searches for missing persons and suspects, assist in locating evidence like spent ammunition and hidden firearms, and more.