Wild Northerner Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 34


Wild Northerner staff

MNRF conservation officer - canine handler Megan Veniot and her partner, Colt, have a strong bond. They have to. They rely on each other in unpredictable environments and remote regions of northern Ontario.

Veniot and Colt met while training last summer and are stationed out of Timmins.

They sparked and made a great pair. Veniot is 23 and a second- generation conservation officer. Colt is a two-year old male Labrador Retriever.

They both start each day with good vibes and a pride to protect natural resources.

“Colt and I have a great relationship,” Veniot said. “He's so full of energy and drive, it's contagious! We are both type ‘A’ personalities, which always makes life interesting. I say everyday ‘I can't wait to see what our careers hold for us’. The best thing about his personality is how he knows when it's time to go to work. I'll come outside of my house in uniform and it's like he just knows. He will start vibrating and shuffling from one paw to the other. When I come out in plain clothes, he is completely calm and mellow. I've wanted to work as a canine handler for as long as I can remember. I am passionate about protecting resources and passionate about dogs - it just made the most sense.”

Veniot started her career with the MNRF in 2010 as an Ontario Stewardship Ranger. She attended Sir Sanford Fleming College for three years for Fish and Wildlife and Conservation and Environmental Law Enforcement.

While working as an Enforcement intern, Veniot requested the assistance of a fellow canine officer for an investigation. Through this, Veniot was able to verify her career dreams while still living in the area she holds closest to her heart.

“Through this experience - I saw firsthand what the job was all about, and after that I knew for sure I wanted to pursue this as a career,” the 23-year-old said. “I love protecting natural resources because it's a passion of mine. I want future generations to enjoy what Ontario has to offer and I want to do everything I can to ensure that. I enjoy working in northern Ontario because it's my home. I have a strong connection to the resources here because I grew up in this part of the world. It's beautiful and remote.”

Veniot and Colt went through four months of daily intensive training last summer to prepare them both for their line of work. The course focused on detection, tracking and obedience and control.

“I had to be trained just as much as Colt did as we were both brand new,” Veniot said. “Training is a part of the everyday life of a canine handler, and it just begins after the four-month course. We both have to stay sharp. The most exciting part for Colt and I so far has to be the first piece of evidence he located. Colt located spent rifle casings during an investigation, and I was so proud. It really made me feel accomplished and the future seem bright.”

Veniot and Colt are based in Timmins and travel extensively throughout Northeastern Ontario in support of other conservation officers. The team has a variety of roles and responsibilities, such as assisting officers with evidence recovery during investigations and public outreach at school presentations and demonstrations. They also go out on regular scheduled patrols during the hunting and fishing seasons with other officers to ensure compliance with natural resource legislation.

“I enjoy making a difference and helping to protect Ontario's natural resources through enforcement and I think Colt agrees, too,” Veniot said.

Naturally driven to protect