This hunting season, Utah wildlife conservation officers plan to search for evidence of poaching and locate illegally killed animals using drones.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has formed its own drone team that will help the government agency enforce wildlife laws and ensure public safety. Comprised of five conservation officers, the Utah DWR drone team has completed various licensing and training requirements with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and earned certification to operate drones for law enforcement missions. law.
Similar to ground conservation teams, these specialist drone operators will be called upon to meet a variety of requirements, including:
- Document crime scenes
- Searching for evidence and locating illegally captured wild animals
- Assist property owners by investigating illegal trespassing on private property
- Assist other law enforcement agencies in their search and rescue efforts
- Assist biologists in wildlife studies
- Document boating accidents (available to assist, if requested)
- Investigate shooting incidents related to hunting
- Investigate human-wildlife encounters
As DWR Captain Wade Hovinga explains:
Using drones will help us solve wildlife crimes more effectively, and having trained law enforcement drone pilots will also allow us to help other law enforcement agencies. law enforcement in their search and rescue efforts or in any other investigation. Utah conservation officers are public servants, and these new tools will help us better serve the public, whether it’s solving poaching crimes or locating lost hunters.
There are approximately 50–55 DWR officers on patrol in the state of Utah; they are tasked with various duties such as enforcing wildlife laws and enforcing regulations. They also educate and protect the recreational public, in addition to responding to non-wildlife related criminal code violations. Often these officers are asked to assist local law enforcement.
All of these activities require wildlife officers to cover a lot of ground on foot or with a K-9 unit. Drones can help patrol large areas in a much shorter time.
“Our scenes are maybe, you know, a mountain, a valley and a mountain or something like that,” Lt. Chad Bettridge recounts with the DWR. ABC4. “If you can get the drone up there, we can see, you know, maybe they started here and the animal went here and it eventually died here. We’re just trying to make our agents more efficient, better in their work.
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