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Idaho Fish and Game K-9 officer leaves big paws to fill after retiring

K-9 Officer Pepper
Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 20:50:37-04

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s first K-9 officer retired after 11 years of service.

Pepper the black lab assisted officers in illegal animal confiscation, wildlife detection, tracking people, locating evidence, provided education and outreach opportunities to the community.

Senior Conservation Officer Jim Stirling initiated the K-9 program in Idaho after learning how other conservation agencies in the U.S. were utilizing K-9 officers as an enforcement tool.

“There are people that are specifically trying to illegally take and possess wildlife and with his special scent ability, odor detection ability, we are able to find those things when people don’t want us to,” Stirling said. “With the detections and their sensitivity of their nose, they’re able to find things we would not be able to see and cover significantly more ground than officers can cover visually.”

Pepper’s skills served as an important tool in assisting officers. Now, there are three active K-9 officers across the state.

“It definitely changed the way I thought about working, thought about doing investigations,” Stirling said. “It gave us another tool to be able to use and be able to find as much evidence as possible before prosecuting cases.”

Stirling said it’s been rewarding working with Pepper all these years. And now, Pepper will go home with Stirling full time where Pepper will have plenty of time to relax and play with his toys.