I am thrilled when people I know are recognized for their dedication and contribution to our natural resources. Recently, Indiana Conservation Officer Jeff Milner received national recognition for his work as the chief handler for the Indiana DNR Resource Protection K-9 program.
The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) presented Milner with its 2012 Conservation Law Enforcement Award at the organization’s recent annual conference in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Originally formed in 1902, the AFWA supports North America’s fish and wildlife agencies in advancing sound, science-based management and conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats in the public interest.
“Even though I was the recipient of the award, our K-9 program would not be successful without all the outstanding work of the entire K-9 team,” Milner said. “Part of Indiana’s success has also been passed on to other states.”
Milner has conducted four K-9 academies (2000, 2003, 2008 and 2011) training resource protection officers and dogs from Indiana, as well as Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia.
“All the states that have come to Indiana for training have continued their program, and in most cases have grown and expanded,” Milner said.
DNR Law Enforcement director Scotty Wilson nominated Milner for the award, noting Milner’s role as one of the founding officers for Indiana DNR’s K-9 program.
“He traveled to Florida in 1997 to train with the Florida Game and Fish commission’s K-9 program,” Wilson said. “He returned to Indiana and proved beyond a doubt the value of these types of working dogs in our profession.
“His attention to duty and his efforts to train officers nationwide has not gone un-noticed by his peers and supervisors. He has set a very positive example for our organization. He has dedicated countless hours of his personal time to this calling and the training of new handlers and dogs.”
Milner currently partners with Fury, who was featured on the front cover of the March/April issue of DNR’s Outdoor Indiana magazine. His first partner, Journey, set the gold standard for achievements. Before retiring in 2008, Journey and Milner had almost half of the 800 arrests recorded by the DNR K-9 program.
“He has made many successful tracking cases in the commission of wildlife crimes and search and rescue,” Wilson said. “Jeff also has been called upon by different agencies throughout the state, including the FBI, to locate evidence used in various crimes during his tenure as a K-9 handler.”
The Indiana DNR K-9 program has averaged eight units during its 15-year history.
“We’re currently at six units with expectations of expanding in the near future,” Milner said.
There are some interesting footnotes to the story of Indiana’s successful K-9 program.
In 1997, there was a shortage of funds available for special programs in the DNR Law Enforcement Division. Indiana’s Turn-In-a-Poacher/Polluter’s citizen advisory board was alerted to the funding needed to send Indiana’s first K-9 handlers to train in Florida. When the request for the K-9 program funding was brought to TIP’s Citizen’s Advisory Board, the vote was unanimous to help in the funding.
Through TIP, the travel needs and accommodations were paid while the LED paid the officer’s salaries during the training. The TIP Advisory Board was in charge of generating funds for paying rewards and for the promotion of the TIP program.
Endorsed and supported by almost every conservation-oriented group in the state, TIP under the leadership of ICO Dean Shadley (retired), built a considerable coffer through banquets and special fundraising events. Prior to funding the trip for the K-9 handlers, TIP paid for nighttime airplane observation of poaching activities and funded several special equipment requests for field officers.
Indiana sent two officers to the K-9 training school. The other officer accompanying Officer Milner was none other than the Law Enforcement Division director himself … Col. Scott Wilson. Of course, back then Scotty was a rank-and-file field officer. Of course, his hard work and dedication brought him a long way.
As for the TIP Citizen Advisory Board vote back in 1997, my hand was raised with all the others in unanimous agreement to help fund Indiana’s emerging K-9 program.
2 men from Garrett caught poaching deer
Indiana Conservation Officer Patrick Heidenreich concluded his investigation of an incident of illegal deer occurring outside of Garrett, Ind. in the early morning hours of Nov. 4.
A concerned citizen observed a pickup truck and reported subjects spotlighting deer and hearing a shot fired in the area of Fitch Road and West Road, south of Garrett in Allen County.
An Allen County Sheriff’s Department Officer was in the area and observed a vehicle matching the description. The vehicle was stopped on a traffic stop on County Road 9A and County Road 68 in Dekalb County around 1 a.m. Upon stopping the vehicle, the deputy discovered an antlered deer in the bed of the pickup truck.
Heidenreich met the deputy at the scene and the occupants of the vehicle, Todd D. Thrush, 35 and David S. Demarco, 45 both of Garrett, Ind. admitted to shooting the deer with a high-powered rifle while illuminating it with a spotlight on West Road, near Shoaff Road in Allen County.
Upon searching the vehicle, two high-power rifles, a spotlight and handgun were discovered. Both men were charged with multiple hunting violations, as well as traffic citations. All firearms, spotlight and the deer were seized as evidence. Charges will be forwarded to the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office for review. Heidenreich was also assisted on scene by Indiana State Police. Indiana Conservation Officer’s would like to remind everyone it is illegal to spotlight deer while in possession of a firearm, muzzleloader, bow and arrow, or crossbow. Officers encourage hunters or citizens witnessing fish or wildlife violations to call 1-800-TIP-IDNR or report violations online at www.TIP.in.gov
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments may contact Jack Spaulding by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to him in care of this publication.