Sniffing Out Trouble: A Look Inside the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife’s Conservation K-9s

April 11, 2024

Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division (OSP F&W) combats poaching through initiatives like the Turn-in-Poachers (TIP) program and anti-poaching education. OSP F&W relies on poaching reports from the public and responds to TIPs by conducting investigative work to catch poachers. One of OSP F&W’s key tools for sniffing out poachers is the Fish & Wildlife Conservation K-9 Unit, which plays a crucial role in safeguarding the state’s fish and wildlife.

Meet the Conservation K-9s: Buck and Scout

Enter the bark-tastic duo of the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife K-9 Unit, Buck and Scout!

In 2019, the first team in the OSP F&W Conservation K-9 unit was formed. Buck, a yellow Labrador, partners with Senior Trooper Josh Wolcott in the OSP Springfield Area Command. Buck was donated by the Oregon Wildlife Foundation (OWF), which continues to help fund the successful program.

The program expanded in 2023 with Scout, a black Labrador, and his handler, Trooper Shae Ross, in the OSP Bend Area Command. Both teams completed their training at the Canine Resource Protection School in Indiana, specializing in three specific tasks: area searches, human tracking, and wildlife detection.

Their mission is to detect and deter poaching activities, track down wildlife offenders, and assist in conservation efforts. These highly-trained K-9s play specific roles in wildlife protection. They have been trained to detect deer, elk, bear, turkey, waterfowl, and salmon. They are also trained to search for firearms, shell casings, and other items with gunpowder residue. Their keen senses and training make them valuable assets in combating wildlife crime and protecting Oregon’s wildlife for future generations.

The Conservation K-9 Unit’s Impact

Since its inception, the Conservation K-9 Unit has conducted numerous poaching investigations and logged hundreds of field hours. A well-trained dog can save up to 800 personnel hours per year, with their scent-detection capabilities allowing them to cover ground efficiently in various terrains and environments. For instance, Buck or Scout can quickly locate shell casings in a field, a task that would take multiple personnel much longer using metal detectors in a grid method.

The addition of another wildlife detection K-9 team has enhanced the division’s capacity to address poaching issues and raise awareness across the state. OSP F&W hopes to expand the K-9 Unit to maximize its search efforts.

Education and Outreach

The OSP F&W K-9 Unit’s impact extends beyond enforcement, significantly benefiting Oregon’s wildlife and communities. In addition to its crucial role in combating poaching, the K-9 Unit plays a pivotal role in education, serving as ambassadors to raise awareness about poaching and related wildlife crimes. OSP leverages the K-9 Unit to assist with outreach to schools, hunting groups, conservation organizations, and the general public through social media and events. Buck’s friendly temperament makes him particularly effective in this role, often attracting crowds eager to learn about poaching prevention.

The Oregon K-9 Unit exemplifies Oregon’s commitment to wildlife protection. Through their dedication, these K-9 officers not only combat poaching but also educate and inspire the public to join in preserving Oregon’s fish and wildlife. You can help Buck and Scout by submitting a TIP or making a report when you notice signs of poaching. To report suspicious activity, dial *OSP (*677).

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