Sacramento, California - Wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are turning to an age-old enforcement tool the horse - to help protect California’s natural resources.
While there is no formal mounted patrol unit, some wildlife officers are using their own personal horses for routine patrol in the back country. Much like canine partners, horses can see, hear and go places faster and quieter than modern technology. Covering up to 20 miles a day, equine patrols can show up where you least expect them, even in the most adverse conditions.
“As a 25-year law enforcement professional, I have used a variety of tools in my career and my six-year old mustang is by far, one of the most practical resources at my disposal,” said CDFW Wildlife Officer Jerry Karnow. “I can cover many miles a day in locations not accessible by any vehicle, which includes a huge portion of California’s outback. As a mounted unit, I have confiscated illegal firearms, helped hikers find their way, put out illegal campfires and made arrests in crimes that would otherwise go unnoticed.”
Karnow’s equine partner, Modoc, is a former wild mustang from Lassen County who was rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management. At two years of age, Modoc entered the wild horse program at a correctional facility in Carson City. Mustangs in the program are tamed, socialized and ridden for the first time by inmates. Wild horses have a keen sense of awareness from living as a prey species, which is needed for their survival from day one. They can hear, see and sense activity at a longer distance well before a human ear or eye can detect it, making them solid enforcement partners.
“Protecting California’s precious natural resources all comes down to boots on the ground, which includes covering large areas of rough terrain,” said CDFW Wildlife Officer Gary Densford. “Utilizing horses makes perfect sense for the duties and work of a wildlife officer in the back country.”
All horses used for patrol must be sound, reliable and in good working condition. Each horse and rider is observed yearly to ensure the equine under saddle is sound and trail ready. All horse units are maintained in a healthy, groomed condition and shall not be ridden on patrol without appropriate hoof care.
CDFW is currently utilizing a handful of units with more interest on the rise.