A California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) K-9 and her handler have proven to be a great asset in the war against drugs in northern California. German Shepherd Phebe and her handler, Warden Brian Boyd, have been responsible for the apprehension of 40 fleeing marijuana cultivation suspects on grow sites hidden deep in forestland.
“Apprehension of marijuana cultivation suspects is some of the most dangerous work wardens do,” said Lt. Lynette Shimek, coordinator of DFG’s K-9 program. “Marijuana cultivation suspects are actively engaged in the commission of a felony, usually armed, extremely physically fit, and know the area better than their pursuers. Although most initial contacts with suspects result in foot pursuits, they can’t outrun Phebe.”
DFG has eight K-9s that are trained to detect illegal substances and objects, protect their handlers and apprehend fleeing suspects. Phebe and Warden Boyd, who have been partnered for three and a half years, have fine-tuned their apprehension strategy with great success. Phebe apprehended 13 of the 40 suspects with a bite, while the rest gave up under the threat of being bitten.
Phebe’s recent successes include:
- A July 25 police raid on a known grow site in Mendocino County resulted in a foot pursuit after two suspects fled. One suspect was quickly apprehended by Phebe and detained by the law enforcement team. Warden Boyd immediately put Phebe on the trail of the second suspect, who called out “Don’t let that dog bite me!” before surrendering to officers. Phebe was commanded to hold the suspect without biting him, which she did.
- During a July 28 a police raid of a site in Tehama County, the team contacted five suspects who subsequently ignored the officers’ commands and fled. One officer apprehended a suspect with his Tazer and two additional suspects were captured immediately. Warden Boyd, Phebe, and partner Warden Aaron Galwey set off after the other two. After pushing through extremely dense foliage for 400 yards upstream, Phebe located a suspect and apprehended him. Over an hour later, when Phebe was searching the area for evidence, she sniffed out the fifth suspect hiding in thick cover. Warden Boyd was able to detain the suspect without injury. Phebe then went on to locate the suspects’ ammunition stores hidden in a plastic bag in heavy brush.
Two of Phebe’s apprehensions have been filmed for Wild Justice, National Geographic’s reality television series highlighting the work of California game wardens. Videographers from Original Productions, the producers of the series, attached a camera to Phebe’s collar to give viewers a never-before-seen view point of an apprehension. One of the apprehensions was aired during the first season of Wild Justice, which began in November 2010. The other apprehension will be shown on the upcoming second season. The air date of the season premier has not yet been announced.