Working Like a Dog to Protect America's Great Outdoors
August 23, 2011
Upper Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Refuge Law Enforcement Officer Darryn Witt and partner 'Rudi' patrol the river. Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR.
Refuge Officer Darryn Witt works on the Upper Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Refuge on the Savanna District in Northern Illinois. On July 29, 2011 he and his canine partner 'Rudi' received a request to help in a neighboring county in the search of two people that had gone missing when the vehicle in which they were driving was swept away in a flash flood. Officer Witt and partner Rudi assisted as a part of a large team of responders that scoured the area in search of the two victims in Jo Daviess County, Illinois. Ultimately, the 86 year-old male, one of the two flood victims, was found alive and in good condition. The 73 year-old passenger, unfortunately, did not survive the accident.
As recent as a few years ago, fulfilling a request such as this would not have been possible as the "K9" Program did not exist in the Midwest Region. Now in its third year, the Midwest Region program has just added a second dog, assigned to Officer Adam Rawlinson at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.
This incident is a shining example of the benefits of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) K9 Program to the resource and the American public. With seven dogs in service nationally, it is just another way that communities are served by the National Wildlife Refuge System and the employees of the USFWS.
The K9 Program promotes safety on refuges by providing specialized skills in crime prevention and in tactical situations, such as locating wildlife and contraband. They are used for tracking people and search and rescue, as well as the full gamut of police related functions. A canine partner provides officer protection and is proven to reduce injuries to law enforcement officers. As the example above indicates, the K9 Program is good for the refuge, good for its neighbors and good for the US Fish and Wildlife Service.