Drones are helping investigate crimes like poaching out in the wild

Sep 23, 2022, 5:21 PM | Updated: 7:43 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources can now get a bird’s eye view of the crimes they investigate.

The DWR recently launched its first drone team of five conservation officers.

Utah is a difficult place to investigate crimes like poaching and other wildlife offenses. There is a lot of open space, and miles and miles of terrain not accessible by roads. A drone can help investigators see past obstacles.

“We are always trying to make our officers more efficient,” said Captain Chad Bettridge who helps oversee operations at the DWR.

A drone does that. It enables fewer officers to accomplish more investigative work.

“The drone is going to help us help us with our crime scenes, photograph those and it will help us find evidence in those,” he said.

The DWR only has 50 to 55 officers patrolling Utah, the captain said, and each one covers about 2,500 square miles.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently launched its first conservation officer drone team. (Department of Wildlife Resources)

The five investigators with the new Unmanned Aerial Systems team had to complete licensing and training requirements with the FAA to become certified on the drones.

“Making us a little quicker and more efficient,” Bettridge said.

A week ago, a hunter went missing in the Uinta Basin. Bettridge said they could have used a drone during the search, and in the future they plan to assist other agencies with search and rescue.

“Similar to our K-9 program, where our dogs have helped a lot with search and rescue operations, we think the drone can be just as beneficial maybe even in some circumstances more beneficial,” he said.

Poaching is one of the most common crimes DWR investigates. The new tool will help investigators document crime scenes, especially when it involves locating illegally taken wildlife across terrain with no access.

He said,“There are things we haven’t thought of that they are going to be incredibly beneficial at.”

The five investigators with drones are stationed across the state for efficient coverage.

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Drones are helping investigate crimes like poaching out in the wild