The tale of a drug-sniffing turkey

Turkey (probably not drug-sniffing)

One of the pupils’ drawings in the Tayside schools wildlife crime project.

This short piece is an excerpt from my book A Lone Furrow. I had been writing about the schools’ wildlife crime project we ran in Tayside during the time I was force wildlife crime officer there. It concentrated on P5 – P7 pupils and in the latter years of the project involved 2000 pupils. Each class received an hour-long DVD on wildlife crime and over the course of a year had to submit 4 individual projects. These usually consisted of a coloured drawing of a bird, mammal, insect or wild plant found in Scotland, though this was sometimes changed to a poster drawing attention to some wildlife crime or issue such as raptor persecution or the plight of the Scottish wildcat; a short story where the young author related his or her investigation of a wildlife crime; a nature diary kept over a week either in spring or autumn; and lastly a wildlife crime quiz based on the content of the DVD which had to be completed at home with adult help. This was the last part of the relevant chapter in the book:


Though not at all my area of responsibility, I was often asked by the pupils about the use of horses and dogs in policing. Most were aware of the use of police horses, which have a real threatening, and consequently deterrent, effect on a hostile crowd. The use of dogs is even more widely appreciated, with a variety of breeds now being used for crowd control, tracking, detecting drugs, explosives, money and even pesticides.  But we had a less well-known animal assistant. In my drug squad days we were searching a Dundee house for drugs. The suspect was a small-time street dealer and not the brightest button in the box. We were sure he would have a few ounces of cannabis for dealing in grams or other small amounts to his friends and neighbours, though never suspected him of being a dealer who could turn over much more than that.

As we started the search it was obvious that it would take some time. The house was a midden, with dirty dishes and clothing lying everywhere, and cupboards so crammed full of junk that they should have had avalanche warnings on the doors. It was the kind of house where you would wipe your feet on the way out. The bedrooms would have done justice to a tornado strike, except that an accompanying whirlwind would have removed – or at least disturbed – most of the dust and grime that coated the floor and chairs. The only item in the house that looked new and well cared for was the huge colour TV in the corner of what could loosely be described the living room. None of us were looking forward to a rummage through any of this, and there would have been plenty of volunteers to stand with the clipboard and keep the search log.

Jim Cameron, a detective constable at the time, and in more recent times a detective superintendent before he retired, was always the comedian in the team. His skills as a joker came to the fore when he earnestly said to the dim householder,

‘Look Clint, (or whatever his name was; it has always amazed me the number of drug dealers I’ve encountered named after a butch film star or football player who would have been flavour of the month about the time of their conception or birth) I think you should just tell us where you keep your drugs. That would save us all a lot of time. If you don’t, I’m going down to the van to get the drug-sniffing turkey.’

Jim went into detail about the superb olfactory senses of this non-existent beast; how it was more efficient than any dog since its nose was much more finely tuned; how it never missed drugs, especially cannabis, no matter how well hidden.

‘The only problem with the turkey that lets it down is the mess it makes. The bugger shits everywhere. It seems to get excited and just seems to crap all the time it’s searching. We’ve tried not feeding it before we take it on a job but it makes no difference.’

Unbelievably this efficacious tale worked. I forget now where the dumbfounded and duped man said the drugs were hidden but he directed us to them. It may have been that he only gave up a smaller stash of an ounce and had more elsewhere, but on that day it was good enough for us. More importantly we hadn’t had to reveal our secret weapon. It would keep for another day.


See A Lone Furrow and other books on this blog. If you would like a signed copy, plus a free copy of another of my books, The Thin Green Line, contact me on

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