Two new officers with unique skillsets and specialized training have joined DNREC Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police. Working with their human partners, AFC Josh Hudson and AFC Chelsea Allen, K-9 Rosco and K-9 River will be on the job, using their sensitive Labrador retriever noses to locate everything from discarded weapons to poached wildlife to lost children.
The two new K-9 teams graduated from the Maryland Natural Resources Police K-9 Academy on June 17 following an intensive 10-week training course, with certification in human tracking, evidence location and wildlife evidence tracking of deer and wild turkeys.
AFC Josh Hudson and K-9 Officer Rosco of DNREC Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police“Their training is scent-specific. If you hold up an article of clothing from, say, a lost or missing child, that’s what they will track, and what they will find,” said Lt. Casey Zolper, who oversees the Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police K-9 program. “They can dig up game that someone’s hidden when over-the-limit or taken out of season, or find illegal guns and ammunition that have been discarded by somebody breaking the law. Just seeing these dogs on duty is a great deterrent to potential violators.”
AFC Hudson began his law enforcement career as a seasonal officer eight years ago, becoming a full-time officer in 2012 and graduating from the police academy in 2013. He brought Rosco home at eight weeks old from a Felton kennel and was well into training him as a hunting dog when an opportunity to join law enforcement came up for the two-and-a-half-year-old chocolate Lab. “Our natural resources police section was looking for new K-9 officers,” AFC Hudson said. “Rosco tested, met their tough criteria and was accepted into the program.”
AFC Allen also worked as a seasonal officer before entering the police academy, graduating in 2014 and joining Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police as a full-time officer. Her new partner, River, a black Lab, was donated to Fish & Wildlife’s K-9 program by Bill Adams of Milford. “I was very excited to hear the agency was looking for new K-9s – partnering on a K-9 unit is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said AFC Allen. “As soon as I met River, I knew she would make a great K-9 partner.”
The two new K-9 teams will walk in some big pawprints. The Fish & Wildlife K-9 program began in 2006, when then-AFC Zolper was paired with K-9 Officer Warden – who proved his skills on a wide variety of cases, from search-and-rescue to natural resource cases to DNREC criminal cases as well as in assisting other police agencies. He tracked all types of articles, people and wildlife, including illegally-taken doves, turkeys, ducks and deer. Warden also helped locate marijuana growing in state wildlife areas, tracked missing and wanted persons and found key evidence in criminal cases that included firearms, ammunition and even a personal item related to an attempted homicide.
When not working in the field, Warden often served as Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police’s K-9 ambassador, demonstrating his unique skills at schools and attending statewide community events, which the new K-9 officers also have as their charge. Warden died in 2014, just a few days shy of retirement at age 10. “Following K-9 Warden’s distinguished service, we knew we wanted to continue the program,” said Chief Robert Legates, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police. “We feel confident these two new K-9 teams will pick up the work Lt. Zolper and K-9 Warden did so well and provide the same outstanding level of service to the people and wildlife of Delaware.”
AFC Hudson and K-9 Rosco are based in Sussex County and AFC Allen and K-9 River are based in New Castle, but will respond as needed throughout the state. In addition to handling DNREC natural resources police cases, the two K-9 teams also will be available to assist state, county and municipal police agencies.
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