RINGWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Bloodhounds are playing a key role in the upstate manhunt for escaped prisoners David Sweat and Richard Matt – and they are naturally well-suited to the task.
CBS2’s Tony Aiello talked Friday with a New Jersey State Park police sergeant and her bloodhound partner, who have tracked down many a missing hiker and escapee.
The 7-year-old bloodhound, named Nicki, has a friendly nature. But don’t be fooled — she is relentless in pursuit of her prey.
“They get on a scent and they don’t want to give it up,” said New Jersey State Park police Sgt. Melissa Brown. “Bloodhounds – everything about them is built to follow that trail.”
Brown and her canine partner Nicki have located numerous missing hikers. They also recently tracked down an escapee from a juvenile center – whom police thought they had cornered.
“They were all looking across the road and Nicki went right in past them, and he was actually behind them,” Brown said.
So how does a bloodhound track its quarry?
As you walk you leave behind an invisible trail of scent – those are dead skin cells, and that’s what the bloodhound is picking up.
Everything about the dog helps it do the job – even the long ears.
“You can see how they would pendulum around and move the scent towards her nose,” Brown said.
Bloodhounds’ noses have 50 percent more smell receptors than a human nose.
In the search for Sweat and Matt, authorities would collect a personal item to use a scent article to prime the bloodhounds. An article of clothing that has been in contact with the skin is best, according to Sgt. Brown.
CBS2 tested Nicki’s abilities using a hair band from parks worker Mary Conway as a scent article. While the bloodhound was secured in the truck, Conway meandered a few hundred yards away and hid behind a tree.
With a brief sniff of the scent article, Nicki was hot on the trail – practically dragging Sgt. Brown as she followed Conway’s exact path.
In the search for prison escapees, police have such high-tech items as thermal imaging sensors and nightvision goggles. But the K9 nose may be the best tool for the job.
Brown said the difficult terrain in the upstate search area can be tough on the dogs. But the thick vegetation helps capture any scent the dogs may be tracking.