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Fish and Game welcomes new K9 officer

New Hampshire Sunday News

August 27. 2017 10:36PM

Conservation Officer James Benvenuti and his dog Cora are the newest addition to Fish and Game's K9 Conservation Corps. (Courtesy/Bri Benvenuti)

The newest member of the state Fish and Game Department definitely will work for food.

Cora the black Lab and her handler, Conservation Officer James Benvenuti, recently completed a six-week training and certification program at Vermont Criminal Justice Training Center. They’ve been training together since last fall, and this was the final step in becoming a certified team.

“She’s ready to go to work,” Benvenuti said.

Cora and Benvenuti, who are based out of the Region 3 office in Durham, are now certified in evidence/article detection (finding objects that contain human scent as well as shell casings and gunpowder), fish and wildlife detection (fish, venison and turkey) and tracking.

Benvenuti said his 13-month-old dog excels at fish detection. Cora has already been on the job, checking fishermen’s coolers at boat launches, where she’s been “well received,” he said.

“There’s not many people that don’t like a black Lab, and she’s about as friendly as they come,” he said. “But you kind of get some odd looks from people: ‘That dog can really find fish?’ They don’t expect it.”

So what is Cora’s reward for a job well done? “She’s food motivated — being a Lab,” Benvenuti said.

So while some canine COs like a good game of ball or tug after a mission, Benvenuti soon learned during Cora’s training that she prefers a snack.

“She wanted to be fed at the end of whatever we wanted her to do,” he said.

As part of her certification test, Cora twice had to successfully track a person’s scent over 2 miles, an hour after the track was laid. That training will come in handy both for search and rescue missions, and for tracking poachers or trespassing hunters, Benvenuti said.

Hunting season is the busiest time for Fish and Game, he said, and that’s when all their hard work will pay off.

Benvenuti is impressed with his partner.

“It’s been an awesome ride so far,” he said. “It’s been a busy year leading up to this point, and I think both of us are excited to get to work and put this training to good use.”

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