This week the DNR Division of Law Enforcement’s K-9 Resource Protection Program kicked off its nine-week training school at Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area in Johnson County.

This year’s school has a total of six K-9 teams attending from Indiana, Kansas, Oregon, and Utah.

Indiana’s K-9 program started in 1997 with a pilot program of two teams. Because of its effectiveness, the program grew to a team of 13 K-9 units throughout the state. At least one K-9 unit serves in each of the 10 Indiana DNR Law Enforcement districts. The Indiana K-9 program is not only well respected in the Hoosier state, but also is recognized as one of the top programs in the nation. In addition to the states represented in this year’s school, Indiana has also helped start and train teams from natural resource agencies in Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, and the African country of Zambia.

The Indiana K-9 program trains teams in human-tracking, wildlife detection and article searches. All canines are trained to locate white-tailed deer, wild turkey, waterfowl, and ginseng. They may also be trained to locate other species, depending on where the handler is stationed. Indiana teams excel in man-tracking and locating firearms.

K-9 teams provide conservation officers an essential tool to help stop poaching. In the past 25 years, Indiana K-9 teams have been involved in thousands of such cases. K-9 teams have been used to find concealed game and guns, as well as to find shell casings in road hunting and hunting-with-a-spotlight cases. K-9 teams are used to find lost hunters as well as poachers who have tried to hide from officers. Because of their unique abilities, K-9 units are often requested by other state and local law enforcement agencies for help in locating evidence, missing persons, or fleeing felons.