By Story and photos by Mikael Krummel

He’s a rookie detective with short blond hair and a loping gait when he’s chasing down evidence. His name is Buck and he’s a specialist trained in a trio of investigative skills: detection, tracking, and article scent locating.

Buck is the Oregon State Police’s first Fish and Wildlife K9, helping the department catch those engaged in poaching, illegal hunting, and illegal firearms use, among other crimes. “Buck gives us that extra tool that allows us to take our investigation one step further,” Josh Wolcott says. Trooper Wolcott is Buck’s handler. They work out of the OSP Springfield Area Command but can be deployed anywhere in Oregon to work wildlife crimes.

The Oregon Wildlife Foundation funded Buck’s training and certification. He responds to alert commands to locate and track human scent. The skill is useful for locating poachers, trespassers, and missing persons.

Buck is also trained to track and locate deer, waterfowl, and soon, salmon and steelhead. Plus, he can locate firearms and shell casings via the scent of shell plastics, gun powder, and human fingerprints on the items.

And amazingly, he does it all for the reward of playtime with chew toys.

“Once he picks up a scent, he doesn’t leave it,” Wolcott says. “It doesn’t matter if a thousand individuals walked across the track. He’ll stick to the track until he gets to the end of it.”

Wolcott says Buck is like many other dogs: He’ll sometimes cheat and try to fool his owner to get rewards. Or he’ll pick up on Wolcott’s frustration and pretend he’s located a scent. But overly aggressive behaviors? “I leave him in the truck,” Wolcott laughs, “and when I come back he’s sleeping.”

Buck clearly loves romping outdoors, working hard to satisfy Wolcott’s commands. It’s a little surprising that when Buck’s in the patrol truck, he’s nearly invisible. It seems he rarely lets loose with even contented whines.

“He’s not a barker,” Wolcott says. “Sometimes he’ll yip with excitement, but that’s usually only in the morning when he knows it’s time to head out to work.”