canine training2Canine Program

water break clipped smThe Wildlife Heritage Foundation of NH maintains donor restricted funds for some ongoing NH Fish and Game projects. All donations specified for the Canine Fund are held in a separate line item account. NH Fish and Game provides no financial support for the Canine Unit, so the Foundation uses these funds to provide equipment, care and maintenance for the animals.

In 2001 NH Fish and Game started the first official K-9 program in an effort to enhance the abilities of the Law Enforcement Division to fulfill the Department’s mission of protecting our fish, wildlife and marine resources as well as our mandate to conduct search and rescue operations within the woodlands and inland waterways of the state.  Conservation Officer Mark T. Hensel and his American Black Labrador Retriever  POACHER patrolled on a daily basis between 2001 and 2010.  POACHER retired in 2010 and Officer Hensel is now teamed with another American Black Labrador Retriever, SIG. POACHER enjoyed his retirement swimming and playing with Officer Hensel and his family.  Injuries sustained during his career took their toll however, and POACHER died peacefully in December of 2015.

The Wildlife Heritage Foundation of NH provided a grant for Officer Hensel  and SIG to  attend a 12-week program at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s K-9 Academy in 2011.  Upon his return, Officer Hensel developed a training curriculum for the NH Fish and Game Canine Unit and provides initial and continuing training to all members of the unit.  They have been joined by two new certified teams – Officer Bill Boudreau and his Lab RUBY, and Officer Bob Mancini and his Lab RUGER.

All three dogs are trained to find hidden fish, deer, and turkey that have been illegally taken, as well as to locate articles of evidence containing human scent or gun powder.  They are scent discriminate tracking dogs and regularly track through the woods for lost people or those that violate NH state laws.

The teams respond regularly to over 100 calls each year;  from search and rescue missions to find lost people, as well as finding people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. They are also called upon to locate spent shell casings at the scene of wildlife crimes, locate illegally taken fish and wildlife, track suspects, and  locate evidence in criminal cases for other law enforcement agencies.

Canine Teams

mark and SIG 2Mark Hensel & SIG
Mark works out of Region 2 (Lakes Region & White Mountains).  Mark joined Fish and Game in 2000, and became the Department’s first canine handler in 2001 with POACHER.  POACHER retired in 2010 and now enjoys a “retired canine” life.  He still comes out and works occasionally and goes for rides in the boat.  He has had a long hard career tracking lost people and violators of the State’s laws.  He now has severe arthritis which limits his mobility but he still loves to find articles and shell casings.

Mark was teamed with SIG in 2011 and after they returned from national training, Mark continues to oversee all training for the canine unit teams. An American Black Labrador Retriever, SIG is now 4 years old, loves to steal and play with tennis balls. Rewards are what SIG earns when he finds something.  SIG is trained to find hidden fish, deer and turkey as well as locate articles of evidence containing human scent or gun powder.  SIG is also a scent discriminate tracking dog and regular conduct tracks through the woods for lost people or those that violate the state’s laws.

Mark and Sig were honored to be one of six New England Conservation K9s nominated for the 2015 Red Sox K9 Hero Award. POACHER and SIG both love to swim and retrieve balls.

bill and RUBY 2Bill Boudreau & RUBY
Bill works out of Region 4 (Monadnock Region).  Bill joined Fish and Game in 2004, and is a member of the Fish and Game Dive Team, a Field Training Officer, and a JEA Coastal Officer. He transferred to the Canine unit in June of 2012 and became partners with RUBY, a 3 year old American Black Labrador Retriever.

Bill and RUBY patrol the towns of Rindge, New Ipswich, Sharon, Jaffrey, Temple, Dublin, Harrisville, Nelson, Hancock, Greenfield, and Peterborough.  Bill and RUBY are available to assist other Conservation Officer’s and police departments anywhere in the state, but focus on providing support to law enforcement personnel in Cheshire and Hillsborough Counties.

RUBY’s favorite toy and reward is her Kong toy. She loves Bill’s family, and is patiently tolerant of Bill’s young daughter draping her with necklaces and other jewelry.  Like most Labs, RUBY loves to swim and will only shake off when she can get someone else wet!

bob and RUGER 2Bob Mancini & RUGER

Bob became a Conservation Officer in July of 2010 and is currently a member of the Advanced Search and Rescue team, Honor Guard Team and Canine Team.  Bob was officially assigned his canine patrol partner, RUGER on January 11th, 2013, when RUGER was just 11 weeks old.  RUGER is an American black Labrador Retriever and is the newest addition to the canine unit.

Bob and RUGER began their initial training when RUGER was a 6 month old puppy.  Ultimately, they completed a 400 hour canine training program which focused on tracking, evidence detection, fish and wildlife detection and obedience. At the age of 1 year old, RUGER and his handler Bob received their initial certification through the United States Police Canine Association in October of 2013. RUGER is now 18 months old, and as he continues to mature he is showing continued improvement in all areas of his training.

Bob and RUGER cover the towns of Bethlehem, Franconia, Littleton, Lisbon, Lyman, Monroe and Sugar Hill; encompassing the Northern portion of District 3. Bob and RUGER are available to assist other Conservation Officer’s and police departments anywhere in the state, but focus on providing support to law enforcement personnel in both Grafton County and Coos County.

While at work, RUGER enjoys the opportunity to search for evidence, find hidden fish and wildlife and track people.  Upon success in a search for evidence, a search for hidden fish and wildlife or a track; RUGER is eager to be rewarded with his Kong on a rope or his favorite treat (a piece of all beef hotdog). While both on and off duty, RUGER loves to go swimming and retrieve his Kong on a rope. While off duty, RUGER enjoys playing with the family pet, Cadence, a Boston Terrier. RUGER also enjoys going out for a for a hike through the woods or on mountain trails with Bob and his family and the occasional doggie sundae after a hard day at work.

Canine Training

The teams train every Monday, doing field training, tactical training and preparing for the annual recertification exam.  All the dogs are trained with a Kong toy as a reward for their performance.

The dogs are trained in 3 areas:

1.  Tracking human scent

  • The tracking skills use a special harness and the dogs are usually kept on a long lead by their handler. They are trained to only follow a single person’s scent trail disregarding other scents.  This is important to ensure they “catch” the correct person.

2.  Evidence search

  • A wide flat collar is used, and the dogs are free roam looking for objects that have been touched by a human hand – cell phone, credit card, screw driver, bullet casing.
  • When the dog finds an object, he is trained to bark and lower his front body to the ground with his front paws encircling the object until his handler arrives and gives the release command.

3.  Finding fish and wildlife

  • Using an obedience ring collar, and sometimes a long lead, the dogs search out fish and wildlife being illegally obtained by POACHERs.  The dogs, with the command “Find It”, will search vehicles, vessels, buildings or anywhere in the outdoors seeking the evidence.

Canine Unit Support

The yearly upkeep for the unit is high – from canine-specific equipment (from leads to bullet proof vests), to specially outfitted trucks to provide equipment storage and safe travel for the dogs, to veterinary care.  Donations from individual donors and corporate donors go to the Canine Fund at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of New Hampshire, and provide for available funds when needed.

Specials thanks go to:

  • Sig Sauer, Inc., Sturm Ruger & Co. and The Fuller Foundation, Inc. for funds to purchase the dogs
  • TransCanada Corporation, Sig Sauer, Inc. and Sturm Ruger & Co. for major annual sponsorship of the Canine Unit
  • Tenney Fritz and Combs Hospital in Peterborough, Milton Veterinary Clinic in Milton, and Whitefield Animal Hospital in Whitefield for providing free care for the dogs
  • Purina for providing food for the dogs, and Ceva USA for providing Vectra Heart Guard

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You can help support this essential unit by sending a donation to the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of NH – Canine Fund, PO Box 3993, Concord, NH 03302.