POMEROY — The Ohio Division of Wildlife has welcomed canines onto their team.
Wildlife Officer Chris Gilkey shared that he and two fellow officers were interested in incorporating canines onto their team and began doing research. He said they learned having canine partners are a big support and an asset to agencies because of the canines efficiency in tracking and finding. Gilkey said they told their chief of the idea and he thought it was great.
On Jan. 22 three wildlife officers along with their canine partners, two German Shepards and a Labrador Retriever, began their 10-week training program at the Reno “Jay” Reda Wildlife Canine Academy based at Cowen Lake State Park in Ohio. Gilkey said their training is 400 hours of canine academy. He shared that all three of the canines will learn the recognition of specific odors for tracking purposes as well as do area and article searches. Gilkey said two of the canines, the German Shepherds, will also be trained in protection work meaning the canines will be able to help apprehend criminals and help protect their human partners as well as do building searches. He shared the canines typically begin training when they are over a year old depending on their maturity level.
Gilkey said once these canines have completed their training, they will be able to recognize and track odors of humans, water fowl, fish, wild turkey, deer, gun powder, and ginseng.
“The canines will be very useful in helping to recover evidence,” said Gilkey.
The canines will be able to track down gun powder or a piece of evidence a criminal may discard into the wilderness. He shared the canines will demonstrate passive alerts by lying down or siting by an article from the criminal or gun powder when found and will bark for proximity alerts.
“It’s like taking your best friend to work with you everyday,” said Gilkey.
Gilkey spends time with his German Shepard Mattis while he is on and off duty. He shared that after working in the Ohio Division of Wildlife for 13 years, he never thought it could get better than it already was, then he got Mattis. Gilkey said that officers and canines create a strong bond as the canines are trained to give their life for their humans. He commented that Mattis wants to be glued to him constantly. Gilkey shared Mattis is all business when he is on the clock, but leads a typical canine life when he is off the clock.
Gilkey said this program has had prudent support systems. Conservation clubs White Tails Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Buckeye Big Buck Club, Safari Club International Southwest Ohio Chapter, and the National Wild Turkey Federation were five donors aiding in the purchase of the dogs and the needed equipment and the Karr-Aanestad K9 Foundation is a non-profit organization that was formed to support the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s canine teams.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.