DNR K-9 program celebrates its 25-year anniversary

INDIANA – The Indiana Conservations Officers’ K-9 program celebrates a 25-year anniversary.

Indiana DNR canine officers

The program started in 1997 with a pilot program consisting of two teams, Officer Jeff Milner and K-9 Journey and Officer Scotty Wilson and K-9 Judge. Because of its effectiveness, the program grew to a team of 13 K-9 units throughout the state. At least one K-9 unit serves in each of the 10 Indiana DNR Law Enforcement districts.

The Indiana DNR K-9 program is not only well respected in the Hoosier state, but also is recognized as one of the top K-9 programs in the nation. In addition to in-state teams, Indiana DNR Law Enforcement has helped start or train teams from natural resource agencies in Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon, Utah, and the African country of Zambia.

The program trains the teams that serve in Indiana in man-tracking, wildlife detection, and article searches. All K-9s are trained to locate white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, waterfowl, and ginseng. They may also be trained to locate other species, depending on where in Indiana the handler is stationed. Indiana teams excel in man-tracking and locating firearms.

K-9 teams provide the officers in their districts with another tool to help stop poaching. K-9 teams have been used to find concealed game and guns, as well as to find shell casings in road hunting and cases where spotlights have been used to hunt illegally. K-9 teams are used to find lost hunters as well as poachers who have tried to hide from officers pursuing them. Because of their unique abilities, K-9 units are often requested by other state and local law enforcement agencies for help in locating evidence, missing persons or fleeing felons.

In the past 25 years, Indiana DNR K-9 teams have been involved in more than 8,200 deployments and resulted in more than 2,300 arrests. In addition, Indiana DNR K-9s have been used in more than 2,700 demonstrations at a variety of public events throughout the state.