In 1978, Game Warden Specialist Deborah Palman researched training police K-9's to assist wardens in conservation law enforcement. In 1980, warden service administration recognized that K-9's were useful in conservation law enforcement at which time The Maine Warden Service K-9 program began. The Maine Warden Service K-9 program expanded greatly in the 1990's to 10 teams under the leadership of Specialist Palman.
In 2008, Warden Specialist Deborah Palman retired. At this time, the K-9 unit was restructured to include two leadership positions. Warden Wayde Carter (K-9 Trainer) took over the position of Administrative Team Leader and Warden Roger Guay (K-9 Trainer) took over the position of Training Team Leader. Over the years, the Maine Warden Service K-9's have been an invaluable resource to the department. They are responsible for finding countless lost persons and having solved numerous fish and game cases. We also assist other agencies with criminal investigations. Maine Warden Service K-9 teams have earned a reputation of being successful and because of that we are often requested to travel abroad to assist other states and countries. One of the biggest human remains recovery missions was conducted in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Maine Warden Service K-9's and handlers train a minimum of 320 hours under the direct supervision of a Maine Criminal Justice Academy certified trainer and must complete a field test to get their initial certification with the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. They must continue to train under the direction of a trainer a minimum of 16 hours per month and complete a field test annually to maintain certification. Maine Warden Service K-9's are trained in the following areas:
Following the trail of a person by using that persons individual scent.
Location of items containing human scent, gun powder residue or any other trained scent.
3. Hasty search:
Using the air to locate persons along natural barriers such as trails, wood lines, ditches, streams, and roads. The dog is trained to use the wind to follow human scent to locate injured and lost people.
4. Fish / Wildlife:
K9's trained in the detection of fish and wildlife to locate illegal fish or wildlife that are hidden by poachers.
K-9's are trained in the detection of human remains. This is necessary when a search has been ongoing for a period of time in which the person is probably deceased.
Warden Service Canine Teams Response to Hurricane Katrina
On November 14, Game Wardens Wade Carter and K9 Buddy (a 100-pound German shepherd) and Sgt. Roger Guay and Rader (a chocolate Lab) left from Northern Maine to go to New Orleans. The mission was to help recover the remains lost in the floods and catastrophic destruction brought to the city by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. On the 17th, they arrived and joined the ranks of the Fire departments Special Operations Unit Task Force One. The Maine team had never worked in this type of environment but quickly adapted to the task. Total destruction became the norm and each day brought more challenges.
Buddy and Rader sifted through the rubble of hundreds of homes working through debris filled with dead animals, old food, toxic chemicals, rats, broken glass, nails, and walls ready to collapse at any moment. The team of fireman, Vetranarians, and police officers and clean up teams who washed the dogs down twice a day contributed tirelessly day after day. The team Task Force 1 recovered bodies, remains, and located areas in debris piles that had to be searched carefully to find the victims lost inside. Thanksgiving Day was spent with Buddy on the operating table in a mobile veterinarian van getting a piece of metal out of his eye. The sliver was removed successfully from deep in the center of the eye. After a days rest buddy was back at it.
On December 3, they completed their 14-day assignment and drove the 1900-mile journey back to Maine. The feeling was bittersweet as they left knowing so much more work was needed to get the job done. Leaving the friends they made during this tour whose lives had been destroyed and future uncertain made it hard to go home to a normal lives.
On February 26, 2006, The Maine team left to return to help finish the seemingly endless task of searching for bodies. This time the focus was on clearing and double-checking homes that had floated their way into the streets blocking the travel ways of the Lower Ninth Ward. They arrived for duty on March 1 and met with Task Force Team One again to continue the daunting task of finding those lost in the sea of rubble. On March 5 while searching a home that had a missing person reported from it, Buddy and Rader proved their worth as they indicated a body in the home even though none could be seen. Closer inspection found the victim lying just out of sight behind some ductwork in the attic. This find received national attention bringing to light just how difficult the recovery task was and why K9s were needed to help find those missing.
On March 9 the Maine team was called back home after housing issues and lack of immediate veterinary support. Arriving back in Maine on March 11 at 3:00 am, the K9's had to adapt back the cold 20 degree weather and deal with the firestorm of press created by them leaving. The privilege of serving on such a dedicated team of professionals made the mission a pleasure to be a part of and highlighted the ability of Maine's highly skilled Warden Service K9 teams.