Dogs Help Sniff Out Endangered Species

Dog sniffing out Whale scat (photo


We all know that dogs are used to help adults and children in many different situations to live a more independent and normal life. We also know that dogs are used by police and other law enforcement agencies in a number of different roles from drug sniffing to bomb detection. But did you know that dogs are now being trained by scientist to help them find some of the most endangered species on the planet so that they can be observed and studied before they are gone forever. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and are able to cover large distances on foot very quickly while searching for the fecal matter and fur patches. Dogs smell artifacts in the air from great distances away where a scientist would have to go area by area physically looking for the material which they might not find for hours at a time. Researchers are currently training and using dogs to sniff out some very rare animals by tracking their fecal material, urine markings, or even small patches of fur.

Once the dogs find these fecal samples or patches of hair researchers are able to collect them in order to study them later in the lab. They can learn about the animals diet, its health, and obviously that it was living in the general area. They may not even need track down the animal itself but with these samples they can study the animals that are so elusive to scientists who go out in the forest, deserts, and oceans for days at a time to not even come home with anything. Having the dogs is proving a game changer for these scientists they can collect the fecal matter and fur without needing to find and tranquilize the bear to take blood samples thus reducing the stress on the animals being studied.

Dogs are also being trained to find fecal samples of several whale species. When a whale releases a fecal it will float on top of the ocean for about an hour before sinking to the bottom of the ocean and being lost and pretty much not usable to Scientists. Researchers will take boats out in the general area of where the whale population is congregating and with the dog at the bow of the vessel literally sniff out the poop. The dog can smell the samples from a distance and lead the scientists directly to the sample before it sinks. Sam Wasser Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington says “We can measure the diet of the animal, we can get toxins from the feces, DNA so we can tell the individual’s identity, it’s species, sex and all of this is in feces. So it’s literally a treasure trove of information.”

Using the dogs has cut down on the time it takes scientists to find the samples they need in order to study the animals. They can focus on learning more about the endangered animal which hopefully will help with their preservation. While using the dogs mean they don’t necessarily get to see the animal they are studying up close in order to take pictures reducing the stress put on these animals compared to what studying them in the past would mean. Stress weakens an animals immune system if the stress lasts for a long enough period.

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