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The Green Life: Fido's New Job: Conservation Work!

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March 25, 2011

Fido's New Job: Conservation Work!

working dog A dog’s sense of smell is close to a million times more powerful than a human’s, so they’re constantly tuned into cues far beyond our sensory realm. We’ve long taken advantage of these canine olfactory powers for police assistance, search-and-rescue jobs, and locating long-lost socks under the bed. And now wildlife biologists are learning how to put those wet noses to work.

Concerned about the effects of traditional research methods like trapping or sedation, scientists are exploring non-invasive alternatives. Scat samples, for example, provide a wealth of information about wild animals, and as any dog owner can attest, dogs have an uncanny ability to find poop.

Working dogs can be trained to seek the feces of specific animals and can differentiate easily between the scents of closely related species, even in the ocean. Marine biologists use Conservation Canines to detect orca poop from more than a mile away. (Check out this video of Tucker, orca-tracker extraordinaire, on the job.)

The dogs' skills help researchers understand where animals are living, how they're moving, what they're eating, and other factors that are important to understanding long-term changes in wildlife populations.

--Zoë J. Sheldon

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