Crime stoppers: DNR conservation officers and their dogs

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 9, 2013 - 6:11 AM

The DNR in recent months has ramped up its canine corps, training more dogs with wider ranging skills — including the ability to scent zebra mussels on boats.

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Conservation officer Travis Muyres demonstrated how his dog Laina checks for invasive species.

Photo: Brian Peterson , Star Tribune

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The dead goose stashed beneath a bed might have remained out of conservation officer Travis Muyres’ sight, had he not already gathered evidence suggesting a poaching had occurred.

The evidence wasn’t much: a photo on his phone of a shoe bottom imprinted in mud in an 80-acre field.

“I never would have found that shoe track if it weren’t for Hunter,’’ Muyres said.

A specially trained German shepherd — and, like Muyres, a Department of Natural Resources employee — Hunter earlier that day had been tasked to search the field where a tipster had reported a goose had been killed out of season.

A veteran at finding illegally taken wildlife stashed beyond his master’s sight and scenting capabilities, Hunter crisscrossed the field until he pinpointed the aroma of a fallen bird, along with traces of blood.

Then, as trained, he sat down.

Which in dogspeak means, “Case solved.’’

“I found the shoe print next to the feathers and photographed it,’’ Muyres said.

The officer subsequently questioned a nearby homeowner, who initially insisted he knew nothing about a goose.

“That’s when I asked to see the shoes of people who lived there,’’ Muyres said. “One was an identical match.’’

In moments, the suspect goose was in hand.

As Hunter had indicated, case solved.

The DNR in recent months has ramped up its canine corps, training more dogs with wider ranging skills — including the ability to scent zebra mussels on boats — and adding different breeds, among them Muyres’ new companion, a Belgian Malinois (pronounced Mal-in-whaa).

Aiding the effort has been Muyres’ certification as a police dog trainer through the U.S. Police Canine Association, bringing the DNR’s dog program in-house and reducing its need to outsource related costs.

Other DNR officer-canine teams include water resource enforcement officer Lt. Julie Siems and her Labrador K-9 partner, Brady; Lt. Larry Hanson and Digger, also a Lab; and conservation officer Scott Staples and his German shepherd, Schody.

The goal, over time, said Muyres, a conservation officer since 2001, is to equip as many as a dozen officers with dogs that possess the special skills DNR conservation officers seek in their companions.

These include tracking, wildlife detection and now zebra mussel scenting, as well as the ability to locate firearms and spent shell casings.

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  • Above:Travis Muyers got some love from his dog Laina, a Belgian Malinois, after the dog detectedinvasive species on a boat.

  • Muyers displayed some invasive zebra mussels that Laina detected on a boat. The only other state with zebra mussel dogs is California, with 17.

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