Badlands Search & Rescue K-9 Seminar Held Last Week

The rough landscape surrounding Watford City was the classroom for a different kind of hunter this Aug. 22-26. The sought-after being the human sort in this case. The Badlands Search and Rescue service teamed up with the American Mantrailing, Police, & Work Dog Association to offer its first K9 seminar for this region. They worked with eight teams, with hounds and handlers representing nine different states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Washington, Alaska, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Missouri.

The teams met at the Roosevelt Inn at 9 a.m., and spent time both in an actual classroom experience, listening to lectures from the AMPWDA representatives, and out in the field. They covered both public and private land for their classes in both mantrailing and human remains detection. While they originally planned only for public land, it quickly became clear with the number of dogs and sheer land needed to properly teach, that they would need to reach out to landowners. They were happy to oblige and even more variety in landscape was gained for the teams' experience. Prairie, fields, brush, cottonwood stands, river bottom all saw action from the teams.

Runners carrying a scent article laid trails ranging from a quarter to a full mile, and all the handlers work their canines on foot. No ATVs or other motor vehicles can be used in order to protect the integrity of the trail, and it allows handlers to better "read" their dogs' movements and reactions. This year's students involved several German Shepherds and Bloodhounds, a German Wirehair, a Belgian Malinois, and a Labrador Retriever. One team was even testing for a level four certification; a merit not yet awarded to any other team in the nation, and the highest level AMPWDA certifies teams.

The American Mantrailing, Police, and Work Dog Association "is a leading provider of K9 training and certification for search and rescue, law enforcement, and K9 enthusiasts," according to their website. Their seminars normally would cost teams several hundred dollars, but in an unprecedented move, Badlands Search and Rescue was able to fundraise enough to cover course fees for the teams. Founder/Director Travis Bateman and James Earl, Badlands SAR fundraising coordinator/K9 handler, both wanted to thank the businesses and individuals who gave, enabling them to bring this seminar to the area. Their donations paved the way for a further education for K9 search and rescue teams in our area and others, and will hopefully save lives in its utilization.

As a nonprofit volunteer association, they receive no government assistance and rely on donations. They established Badlands Search and Rescue in 2018 and are continuing to grow its resources to better serve the area and community. They currently have three bloodhounds available for searches and hope to add a horse-mounted unit, and gain certifications in water search and recovery as well. Bateman says his goal for their association is to continue to strengthen their teams for a fast response. Earl wanted to encourage anyone ever faced with a missing person situation to reach out once local law enforcement has been contacted and is open to their assistance. Time is of the essence in these cases, and the K9 teams' work is greatly aided by a fresh scent.


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