Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hot on the trail

Bloodhounds play hide and seek with Mountain School kids

Express Staff Writer

Trainer Jeremy Basham leads Bode, a young bloodhound in training, in a search for a Mountain School camper last week. Photo by Willy Cook

You can run, but you cannot hide from the nose of a bloodhound. That's what a group of kids found out last week during a wilderness-skills training camp at the Mountain School near Bellevue.

Several kids at John DeLorenzo's summer camp had fun hiding out in the fields and trees near the Mountain School on Mustang Lane, and waiting for the bloodhounds to find them.

The dogs were first given the scent of the youngsters by sniffing their clothing.

Blaine County residents Kevin and Jennifer Swigert raise and train bloodhounds, also known as St. Hubert hounds and sleuth hounds. They were originally bred more than 1,000 years ago to hunt deer and wild boar, and later to specifically track human beings by scent.

"Our effort is to teach these kids about what happens in the search environment," Kevin Swigert said.

He was assisted by Twin Falls resident Jeremy Basham.

"It was really fun to go in there and show the kids about these dogs, and how to be found most effectively if they are lost," Swigert said.

Swigert said that unlike some breeds of tracking dogs, bloodhounds will cross an elk or deer trail and not get distracted from the human trail they are following. He said they are unique in their ability to follow a human scent trail on the ground up to 10 days after a person has passed by.

"Their natural tendency is to put their noses to the ground and follow footstep to footstep," he said.

He said his dogs come from a bloodline that has been used in law enforcement for 100 years.

The Swigerts have supplied bloodhounds to police forces in Sacramento and Middletown, Calif. Kevin Swigert said trained adult bloodhounds cost more than $25,000.

"They can identify an individual person from within a crowd," he said.

The Swigerts are training their 14 bloodhounds to follow a trail while search-and-rescue crews follow behind on horseback.

"They can travel so much faster than we can by foot," he said.

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