Why we have a K-9 Investigative Unit.
Dogs. They’re more than just man’s best friend. They’re capable hunters, trackers and excellent law enforcement officers. And for 25 years, they’ve helped the West Virginia Division of Forestry’s Special Operations and Enforcement Unit track down arsonists who’ve started forest fires.
Raisy and Boone make up the K-9 team of our Unit, but don’t let these cute dogs fool you. They’re serious about their job. They work with assistant state foresters and investigators Don Kelley and John Bird to sniff out the cause of forests fires and even track down missing children and lost hikers.
A forest fire scene can be thousands of acres in size and filled with millions of smells at that are completely undetectable to the human nose. Thankfully, a bloodhound’s nose is a million times more sensitive than a human’s, which means their sniffers are one of the best tools our Investigative Unit can use to find the cause of a forest fire.
Almost all forest fires are human caused. Because bloodhounds are so good at detecting smells, they can track an arsonist from the fire scene back to where they are. They’ve even tracked someone who started a fire from their vehicle.
But these crime-fighting dogs are more than naturally gifted sniffers. They’re highly trained and go through rigorous training each year so the West Virginia Police Canine Association can certify their tracking skills. The annual certifications are a big part of what makes the evidence the dogs dig up stand up in courts of law.
And over the years, these dogs have proven themselves to be some of the finest investigators on hundreds of cases. Their hard work has helped the Special Operations and Enforcement Unit reduce the number of forest fires and prevent new ones from happening. In 2017, Kelley and Raisy were named K-9 Team of the Year by the West Virginia Police Canine Association. The Investigative Unit has even traveled to assist law enforcement in other states, including California, Arizona and North Dakota.
While there are many advancements in technology that can help our team find the cause of forest fires and track down criminals, nothing beats the keen sense of smell of a dog.
Want to learn more about our Investigative Unit or keep up with Raisy and Boone? Follow @wvforestry on Facebook and Twitter.