Ontario’s newest four-legged crime fighter is almost ready to start working.
After weeks of training here, Maya, a 15-month-old Pudelpointer, will fly Monday to Thunder Bay, where she and other canine conservation officers will finish off their training with the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“She just wants to work,” said her trainer, conservation officer Nick Lees.
And that work will largely include patrolling Crown land to sniff out illegal fishing and hunting caches, gunpowder and ammunition.
Grant Rieder handled the first 24 days of Maya’s training. He sees a bright future.
“I know this dog is going to be a rock star.”
When she is finished her 16-week training course, Maya will be up to speed in obedience, detection and tracking. Chosen because of a hunting-dog heritage that allows her to go “undercover” with her trainer, she was also handpicked due to “super-high drive.”
“It’s definitely been a problem finding suitable dogs,” Rieder said. “They need a high drive and to be environmentally sound — not afraid of noises such as a gunshot or different situations.”
While she loves attention, Maya is only allowed to receive pets and praise from her trainer.
“If she was allowed to get attention, we would never get our job done,” Rieder said.
While Maya will soon live in a kennel with Lees and his family in Fort Frances, she may not be welcome very often inside their home.
Taught to run and chase, Rieder explains it would be difficult to tell her not to jump on tables or other furniture.
The province has been using dogs as conservation officers for 27 years. Lees will partner with Maya in the Fort Frances office that covers an area from Atikokan to the Manitoba border.
Poaching is a still a problem with big-game species including bears, whose gallbladders and paws are used for medicine in different cultures.
Maya will be used to sniff out any hidden wildlife or fish that may have been obtained without a permit.
“The odd person pushes the limit a little bit,” Rieder said. “That’s where we come in.”