Bring in the dog

Many folks may not be aware of it, but conservation officers across Ontario have a very effective tool in their arsenal they can utilize to investigate fish and game violations.
Just like police organizations have drug dogs, the Ministry of Natural Resources has fish and game dogs.
Bryon Cosgrove is the regional canine handler for the northwest. He and his dog, “Riggs,” live in Dryden, where they are centrally located and have to ability to quickly travel to all parts of the region to aid in investigations of all kinds of fish and game offences.
There are six canine units across the province (the others being located in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, and Bancroft). The officers who work with the dogs can use them for a variety of jobs, including aid in finding hidden fish and investigating hunting violations.
This past week, I met with Bryon and Riggs and learned first-hand that this is a very unique dog. Riggs came from a dairy farm in New Liskeard at a year-and-a-half old and went through an intensive training session with Bryon from April-August, 2007.
“Riggs was chosen for this position because he displayed qualities such as ball drive, hunt drive, and courage,” noted Bryon.
Everything that Riggs does revolves around getting a ball as a reward. Bryon carries a special ball with him at all times and when Riggs gets a job done, the ball comes out.
This dog lives for the ball, trust me. Bryon can tell Riggs what to look for by putting on a specific collar for each situation (depending on what they are looking for).
Throughout much of the year, Bryon plans where he is going to work with Riggs, but he is available most of the time, especially during hunting season, to assist officers throughout the region in their investigations.
Road checks are a common event, where Bryon stops anglers and checks to ensure they are following fishing regulations.
Checks on the water also are common—and reveal the effectiveness of the Riggs.
Bryon hid fish to demonstrate for me what this dog can do and I can tell you, if you hide fish somewhere in your boat or vehicle, this dog will find them!
Specifically, Riggs is trained to find walleye, brook trout, lake trout, and rainbow trout, but Bryon explained that other fish likely will not make it past this dog’s prying nose.
Throughout other parts of Ontario, dogs are specifically-trained to find whitefish, a popular game fish on Lake Simcoe, or bass, which are hugely popular in southern Ontario.
?On the game end of things, Riggs is trained to sniff out moose, bear, deer, and wild turkey. This past fall, for instance, Riggs was key in helping to investigate a large deer poaching violation that another officer was working on.
The results were successful.
Riggs and Bryon spend nearly every minute of every day with each other as Riggs travels with Bryon in a his truck, and has his own kennel at his home. Training for the pair is a daily occurrence to keep both of them in tune with their job.
Bryon can tell right away if Riggs gets on to something simply by watching his body movements. It is really an amazing act to watch.

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