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Losing a hunting partner can be stressful. When that partner also served as a co-worker, the loss can be even greater.

When Department of Environmental Conservation Officer James Hunt made a presentation at the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs National Hunting and Fishing Day gathering at the Elma Conservation Club on Sept. 22, a crowd surrounded Hunt and K-9 service dog Matz, enjoying the talk about hunting ethics and some basics about enforcing conservation laws.

At that time, Matz, a German shepherd with years of policing service, followed ECO Hunt’s commands and warmly accepted pets and pats from the smallest kids to the biggest adult attendees.

A month later, Matz passed away. Hunt writes that he became sick on the morning of Oct. 26. A trip to the veterinarian disclosed he had suffered a stroke or seizure. Later that day, he was tired and just wanted to stay in the truck.

Hunt put his kennel in the garage so Matz could watch him clean out his truck. But he suffered another stroke and died at 7 p.m. that evening.

Hunt writes, “The whole family was present at the time and it was a very sad day. Matz is buried in the yard and will always be with us.”

Matz was born Jan. 1, 2003 and began K-9 duty with Hunt in June of 2004.

Hunt noted, “He died on duty in the last minutes of his shift.”

His tour of duty was to end this coming summer, as would have turned age 10 this coming year.

During his years on duty he worked almost 100 field cases that were brought to courts. He assisted Hunt and other ECOs in discovering evidence to prove many cases.

Hunt recalls his first time on duty: “The most notable for me was his first case on the job, which was in Niagara County. He recovered shell casings and wads to put together an illegal shooting of a deer in the bow season. He then located the drag marks of the deer and led us to a vehicle that we tracked to a nearby barn. That led to the deer in the barn being located as well. The subject ended up being a repeat offender and he ended up doing time in the Niagara County jail for illegal taking of a deer.”

Hunt had several similar cases and made many other disclosures, but this first case was one which, once completed and filed, he could say “it does not get much better than that.”

The shock of this loss has had a profound effect on all involved with Matz as a K-9 duty dog, a companion to Hunt and assistance to his working ECO peers.

A week after Matz’s passing, Hunt wrote, “I am looking forward to another K-9 and being able to help my fellow officers solve more fish and wildlife cases in the future.”

For all fortunate to have seen Matz in action, his service and people skills will be missed and long remembered by those who worked with him.

email: odrswill@gmail.com