ST. GEORGE — Game wardens will have another nose to help sniff out hunting violations as deer season begins Saturday.
Cody, a young yellow Labrador retriever, joined the Southern Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resource rangers as a K-9 officer after graduating from the police academy in September.
“His job is, right now, to find wildlife – dead or alive,” DWR Officer Joshua Carver said.
Carver is Cody’s handler, and the two have been training together in Iron and Washington counties since the division acquired the eager pup.
“His very first day out of the academy, I took him to go check some fishermen,” Carver said, “and right away he pulls me to this bucket this guy was sitting on, and it was an upside down bucket, so it wasn’t holding water, and I said, ‘Hey, do you have fish under there?’”
The fisherman acknowledged the foregone conclusion of Cody’s acute sense of smell and admitted to fishing without a license.
Since that first day a month ago, Cody has already helped wildlife officials track down numerous poachers.
“This is the time of year where we’re preparing for the deer hunt,” Carver said.
Cody has been training every day for close to two weeks in preparation for deer season. He will likely be stationed at checkpoints sniffing out potential violations in Southern Utah this weekend.
“One of the things we use him for is vehicle searches,” Carver said. “Another one would be where guys are shooting multiple deer, leaving one to waste, and then maybe taking the deer that they want.
“This is stuff we’re anticipating using him on. Already, we’re using him in multiple deer cases prior to the hunt.”
In addition to deer and fish, Cody can track bears, bobcats and mountain lions. He’s trained to sniff out pelts that are in hunters’ possession suspected of overhunting predator animals.
In his next phase of training, he will learn to track fugitives or assist in search-and-rescue operations.
“He’s not certified in that yet,” Carver said, “but we’re hoping to get him certified in that probably by the end of April. Whatever agency needs assistance – if they need us to help track down somebody – I fully anticipate using Cody in that kind of situation.”
Though he will likely help officers track down criminals someday, Cody is not trained in corrections behavior.
“He won’t be a bite dog – he’s not a patrol dog,” Carver said “He’s never showed any aggression towards anyone. We won’t send him in to bite because he’d probably lick them to death.”
Cody was chosen for his line of duty in part because of his friendly, social demeanor. He also comes from an established lineage of master hunting dogs, making his job come naturally.
“He’s got an instinct to hunt, but for him, this whole thing we do is about play,” Carver said. “The only way you can get this guy to work if is he thinks it’s going to be fun in the end.”
Since he isn’t asked to do a lot more than follow his wolf-born instincts as a hunter, Cody eagerly performs all of his assigned tasks.
“Cody doesn’t have to be convinced to work,” Carver said. “He’d put in overtime all day every day if he could.”
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