By Art Lander
Using DNA as a way to identify individuals is not restricted to the investigation of crimes against humans.
Wildlife law enforcement officers have been relying on DNA evidence since the late 1980s to help prosecute persons who take wildlife illegally. Biologists discovered that DNA provides valuable information about the population dynamics of the wildlife they monitor and manage.
"We use DNA as a forensic, investigative tool," said Capt. Myra Minton, acting assistant director of law enforcement for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. "I can recall several cases where we used the DNA in blood evidence to match a gut pile to a deer carcass, or a deer head in a freezer with a deer carcass that had its head removed."
Minton said the department sends evidence samples to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, OR, the only lab in the world dedicated to crimes against wildlife. The lab supports wildlife law enforcement efforts in all 50 states and the 150 foreign countries that have signed the CITES Treaty (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
DNA profiling, sometimes referred to as genetic fingerprinting, was developed by British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys in 1984.
Much of what we know about black bears in Kentucky is the result of DNA analysis. "We use hair snares as a non-invasive sampling method," said Steven Dobey, the departments bear program coordinator. "The DNA extracted from hair follicles allows us to individually identify each bear, determine the sex ratio of the population and ultimately estimate the size of the population." More....