Contact: Sr. Cpl. Carl Winckoski, Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement, 302-739-9913 or 302-542-2115 or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Fish and Wildlife Enforcement’s K-9 Warden remembered
DOVER (Aug. 8, 2014) – Since joining DNREC’s Natural Resources Police, Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement in 2006, K-9 Warden followed his outstanding nose and canine athleticism afield to track poachers and other law-breakers, uncover evidence and lead rescuers in locating the lost and missing.
On Sunday, Aug. 3, just a week before his formal retirement from the work he loved and excelled at, the nearly 10-year-old black Labrador retriever died at home with his longtime Fish and Wildlife Enforcement partner, Lt. Casey Zolper.
“For eight years, K-9 Warden was a very valuable member of our team and of our law enforcement family, and we honor him for his service to the people of Delaware,” said Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Chief Robert Legates.
Lt. Zolper and Warden became partners in the spring of 2006. At that time, and after more than two years of research, Zolper had a plan approved by his superiors to start Delaware’s first-ever fish and wildlife K-9 team. Warden was donated by local dog trainer Bill Wolter, and training for Zolper and Warden was funded by donations from Owens Station hunting preserve, the Dewey Beach Lions Club and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
DNREC’s new K-9 unit graduated in June 2006 from an intensive, 400-hour, 10-week training course conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Certified by the United States Police Canine Association, Florida’s nationally-recognized training program focuses on follow-your-nose canine conservation detective work with hunting dog breeds, rather than the more familiar bite-and-hold-the-suspect police dog training with German shepherds. Through voice-command, praise-focused training, Warden learned to apply his highly sensitive nose to find and follow scents in tracking, evidence recovery and wildlife detection.
During their eight years on the job together, Warden and Zolper sharpened and expanded the K-9’s skill set through quarterly training with other fish and wildlife K-9 teams from neighboring states, including two Florida classmates who work for Maryland Natural Resources Police. For example, Zolper trained Warden to alert on the scent of river herring to help in locating illegally-caught herring.
Warden proved his skills on a wide variety of cases, from search and rescue (SAR) to natural resource cases to criminal cases. He tracked all types of articles, people and wildlife, including doves, turkeys, ducks and deer. His working ability helped locate marijuana growing in state wildlife areas, tracked missing and wanted persons, and found key evidence in criminal cases, including firearms, ammunition and even a personal item related to an attempted homicide.
In one case, Zolper and Warden were called to assist Delaware State Police in their search for a person believed to be suicidal. Using his specialized training in tracking, K-9 Warden worked with the man’s scent taken from his vehicle and a slipper, and quickly located the man, who was unconscious during the middle of winter, in a large wooded area. After the man was found by Warden, he was transported to a hospital, treated and stabilized.
When Lt. Zolper and his partner were not working in the field, Warden often served as Fish and Wildlife Enforcement’s K-9 ambassador, demonstrating his unique skills at schools, attending statewide community events and assisting Zolper in introducing children and adults to Fish and Wildlife-specific law enforcement techniques.
On duty, Warden was Zolper’s partner and all business, wearing his own badge on his camouflage police dog collar. However, at the end of the workday, the good-natured K-9 agent was all about spending his down time with his family, especially Zolper’s 4-year-old daughter. “Warden was a great partner on the job, and a big part of my family at home,” Zolper said. “He will be missed both professionally and personally.”
Vol. 44, No. 270