Fish and Wildlife Forensic Unit

Special investigations and forensic services section

The forensic unit supports the protection and management of fish and wildlife in Alberta by analyzing evidence from investigations and conducting research to develop forensic tests.

The unit uses a wide range of techniques to support investigations, including:

  • Anatomical examinations
  • Chemical tests
  • DNA analysis
  • Immunological tests

DNA Testing

DNA testing is the most requested service provided by the Forensic Unit. Since DNA tests for wildlife are not commercially available, the unit has developed forensic DNA tests and databases “in-house”. The information gained from this research has been used to identify and prosecute individuals who illegally harvest and traffic in fish and wildlife.

Forensic DNA analysis can also aid fish and wildlife management in a number of ways, including:

  • DNA matching (determining if pieces of biological material come from the same individual animal)
  • population assignment (determining the geographic location an animal came from based on its DNA profile)
  • species identification (using DNA to determine the species of origin of biological material like meat or bone)

Examples of DNA Testing in Wildlife Crime Investigation

Forensic DNA analysis is a powerful investigative tool, providing crucial evidence to successfully prosecute individuals who illegally take fish and wildlife.

  • Illegal Elk Hunt– Feb 2011 (2 pages)
    Forensic DNA analysis turned up critical evidence in the illegal taking of an elk, even after the vehicle found at the crime scene had been cleaned and repaired.
  • Vehicle Used as a Weapon – Feb 2011 (1 page)
    Forensic DNA matching resulted in conviction for three suspects charged with the illegal use of a vehicle in the taking of a deer.
  • Bighorn Sheep Poaching Case– Mar 2010 (2 pages)
    Forensic DNA matching was instrumental in an investigation into the illegal taking of two bighorn sheep.
  • Illegal Walleye Fishing Case– Mar 2010 (2 pages)
    Forensic DNA analysis was used in a different way in an investigation into the illegal taking of fish.