As the weather heats up and state beaches and parks attract more visitors, the Massachusetts State Police will be patrolling those locations with the help of their “ultimate all-terrain vehicles’’ — horses.
The Mounted Unit, which is the only full-time unit of its kind in the state, currently has 13 horses and six full-time troopers. For the summer months, which are the unit’s busiest, additional troopers are assigned on a part-time basis.
“We are currently deployed to several parks and beaches across the state. We patrol Salisbury Beach on a daily as well as a nightly basis and we also patrol Walden Pond in Concord,’’ said Trooper Dave McCann, who has more than a decade of experience on the Mounted Unit. “We’re tasked with [enforcing] any and all rules and regulations that the DCR [Department of Conservation and Recreation] has. We can get called out to searches, crowd control situations, or any large scale events.’’
Though the unit does not patrol Boston’s beaches regularly, McCann said, they could be called to beaches like Carson Beach for special events and high-volume weekends on an as-needed basis.
The job of a mounted trooper differs from that of a patrol trooper in more ways than just the mode of transportation, McCann said.
“We’re at a much slower pace, so we have an opportunity to see a lot more things and process and evaluate them, whereas the troopers on the road may have to make much quicker snap decision than we do,’’ he said while sitting atop Scout, a 6-year-old Percheron thoroughbred. “So I like that aspect of it. It’s kind of a throwback to the old days.’’
In addition to routine patrols and crowd control, the horses are also an excellent community relations tool, McCann said.
“A lot of people don’t even realize there is someone sitting on the horse’s back, they’re just so focused on the horse,’’ he said. “You get quite a reaction from a lot of kids.’’