Inside the DNR’s K-9 conservation enforcement unit

MN DNR K-9 Conservation Unit
MN DNR K-9 Conservation Unit(Quinn Gorham)
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 9:33 PM CDT
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FOREST LAKE, Minn. (GRAY) – During hunting season, the Minnesota DNR relies on conservation officers to maintain the rules. Oftentimes, those officers come across a situation where the perceptive nose of a dog can help things immensely.

“We use their sense of smell to help us locate things whether that be evidence, Game, Fish, zebra mussels, firearms, shell casings,” said Lt. Philip Mohs with the DNR’s K-9 Enforcement Division.

While man’s best friend makes a great companion for those out on the hunt, the DNR uses them to keep rogue hunters in check.

“The violations we encountered in the fall, a lot of it is we’re looking for that key piece of evidence. We might have a poaching case that we don’t have a shell casing,” said Mohs.

The dogs are specially trained to track all sorts of violations, from poaching to harboring invasive species.

“We try to get as much information as we can on the way there. And when we get on the scene, figure out where we’re gonna start looking. And obviously, weather is a big part of it, too. So we’ll use the wind,” said officer Mike Fairbanks.

The K-9 conservation officers are trained in the same way as their urban counterparts, using toys as an incentive. Once they find the thing they’re looking for, whether that’s game, discarded shells, or even a hunter, they get that reward.

" They go to training inside maybe a more of an urban environment. In buildings, maybe in a parking lot or a park., but obviously, we’re a little unique because we work in the woods,” Mohs said.

Mohs said they’re an invaluable asset to the DNR and it’s conservation officers.

“Not only are they a great asset for us as a department or an agency, but in the community, they play a huge role and they’re a great asset to the entire community,” he said.

The dogs are typically trained at Camp Ripley.