The Missouri Department of Conservation is set to launch a new canine unit through its Protection Branch this summer. The new unit, consisting of five dogs and their conservation agent-handlers, will be stationed around the state and used as necessary to work throughout Missouri.
According to MDC, the capabilities of canines are extensive in conservation-related work, but common uses include tracking, evidence recovery, search and rescue, wildlife detection, and public outreach programs. Another rapidly growing use of canines is in the field of endangered and invasive species. There are currently 36 other states using dogs in their conservation efforts.
“Canine programs have been successfully used by conservation agencies since the late 1970s,” said MDC Protection Deputy Chief Dean Harre. “The implementation of this canine program will help continue MDC’s mission of protecting Missouri’s fish, forest, and wildlife resources.”
Retriever-style dog breeds were specifically purchased for the MDC program, consisting of three Labrador Retrievers and two German Shorthaired Pointers. The dogs will be used for a variety of enforcement investigations, such as evidence recovery and wildlife trafficking. They will also be used in public outreach programs at fairs and schools.
The approved conservation agent-handlers and canines are:
- Cpl. Susan Swem and Lab, Astro, stationed in the southwest region;
- Cpl. Justin Pyburn and Lab, Korra, stationed in the Kansas City region;
- Cpl. Agent Caleb Pryor and Pointer, Zara, stationed in the northwest region;
- Cpl. Don Clever and Lab, Penny, stationed in the northeast region; and
- Cpl. Alan Lamb and Pointer, Tex, stationed in the southeast region.
MDC has partnered with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which has its own canine training program, to provide certified canine training services. The canine handlers and their partners initiated a rigorous nine-week training program with Indiana DNR in February and graduated from the program on May 14.