An article from WWA’s Words From The Wardens.
This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s August, 2020 eNewsletter.
By DNR Conservation Warden Ben Mott
I am one of several Wisconsin DNR conservation wardens who works with an American Kennel Club-certified good citizen.
Make that a four-legged good citizen. Strike that. Make that a wicked-smart good citizen that excels at a host of duties from community relations, to finding missing game for a hunter, or a lost hunter! And one that really likes meetings citizens of all ages.
When people hear about law enforcement K9s, they often think of the dogs used by law enforcement agencies to take down criminals, find illegal drugs and bombs and more services. Our DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement program is unique. Our dogs are not going to go after you, nor will they search out drugs. However, you will see our dogs helping to find waterfowl, upland game, deer, evidence, gun powder, and, in some instances, lost people.
Our program involves personal dogs that have completed training to be allowed to assist the warden at work. The program has flexibility that allows each warden to modify the training to fit the needs of their service areas.
The program has been going on for nearly ten years under these specifications. Most years, we have a core of five to nine wardens approved to work with their personal AKC-certified dogs throughout the state.
HOW I GOT STARTED
I became involved with this program when I started in my first field station in Milwaukee. There, I was able to use my dog to find blood evidence of illegal deer and recover illegally taken waterfowl. But it didn’t stop there. I also used my dog to assist in the education of thousands of hunter education graduates, and talk with thousands more folks at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show.
Since my transfer to Waushara County, I continue to use my dogs to search for evidence, find fish and promote dogs in conservation and with public relations. And, it is usually the case that the citizens know the dog’s name instead of the warden’s.
My first dog, Grizzly, became something of a social media sensation as he was the focus of many DNR tweets, videos and Facebook posts as he was a welcomed companion at hunter education classes and along for the annual Deer Season DNR Tweet-Alongs.
That’s Grizzly, at right, holding my life jacket in a social media post about the importance of wearing life jackets any time you are on the water. And another photo shows Grizzly and me in our boat – and we both have our life jackets on!
My family raises Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers. I find that their size, temperament, and ability make them a perfect dog for me while I’m working. They are well-rounded dogs and fit the mold for what I do with a dog at work currently.
I believe a well-trained dog can further what we do as conservation wardens, both in an enforcement setting, as well as in a public relations setting. I hope to always have at least one dog approved to work with me throughout my career.
TRAINING AND PARTNERSHIP
We also complete an annual Warden K9 Training. The dogs earn their AKC-certification as good citizens and can demonstrate excellent skills to socialize. The training day also is filled with assessments on how the dogs can search. They search for waterfowl, upland game birds, fish and empty casings. The annual training is always a highlight. And, as usual, it is hard to tell who had more fun working so hard – the dogs or the wardens, who take on the training themselves.
The wardens with K9s take it upon themselves to train their dogs to a professional, efficient and effective level.
We wardens who have our K9s have been called out to assist other local agencies. Wardens have used their dogs at public events, and often will do school talks, safety classes, and demonstrations with them, showing their versatility and ability to work with public members of all ages. The wardens find that having the dog with them can break the ice for a lot of folks who may not normally come up and chat with them.
As waterfowl hunters, we all know how important a well-trained K9 companion can be for conservation – and – your conservation wardens couldn’t agree more. We use the dogs as much as we can to assist in gaining compliance with the laws that we have, and to catch those who may be trying to bend those laws a little too much.
We lost Grizzly several months ago, and we miss him. Our other Tollers learned from Grizzly and have been picking up the baton for public service. That’s Leinie in my boat, ready for patrol.
If you have any questions on the program, please feel free to contact Co-Chair of the Dog Use Committee Warden Ben Mott – 920-896-3383.