SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) introduced a brand-new drone squadron for their investigation team.  

DWR officers investigate wildlife crimes, meaning poaching, hunting misfires, human and animal encounters, helping search and rescue and more. Those investigations can span thousands of miles up mountains and through canyons. But with their new drones, conducting their investigations will be much more efficient. 

“We’re always trying to make our officers more efficient, better at their job,” Lt. Chad Bettridge with DWR says.

Bettridge says there’s only about 50-55 patrolling DWR officers in the state. 

“If someone goes out, poaches an elk or something like that, our officers go out and investigate it, try and find out who did it,” Bettridge states. 

And with those crimes happening out in the wilderness, their investigations cover a lot of ground. 

“Our scenes are maybe, you know, a mountain, a valley and a mountain or something like that,” Bettridge says. 

The drones can reportedly fly up to 400 ft. and fly as far as the trained officer sees them. 

Now, instead of relying on finding someone or something on foot or with the K-9 unit, they have drones to monitor a much bigger area in a much shorter time. 

“If you can get the drone up there, we’ll be able to see, you know, they might’ve started here and the animal went here and it eventually passed away over here,” Bettridge says. 

The new drones will also assist with wildlife surveys and help with search and rescue missions, “to where we can help other agencies and fly the drone ahead of them, help search and rescue help find people safe and get to the hospital if need be,” Bettridge states. 

And with this new squadron, DWR says this’ll make their jobs quicker, safer and easier, all while abiding by strict investigation protocols. 

“We don’t wanna fly these where we shouldn’t be flying them and we don’t want people to be worried about that. It’s just a tool to help us become more efficient investigators,” Bettridge says. 

DWR wants to assure people their drones will not be flying through private property unless they receive the proper warrants. They ensured the department they will only use drones for investigations, research, and helping search and rescue.