Using dogs to find animal scatter
Working with wildlife conservation and keeping track of animals over large geographic ranges is hard, as the animals will move a lot and if they haven’t been tagged you never know where to start looking for them. This has been solved by the Conservation Canines program. They train dogs to locate the scat (feces) of different wild life e.g. bears, whales, tigers, orcas, spotted owls, and wolves. “How can that help conservationists?” As discussed earlier, whale feces is important for the Southern ocean to keep the primary production up (link). What can be discovered when examining scats is the genetics of the animal, what and how much the animal eats, how often and if they ingest any toxins. This indicator will tell how many animals live in the area, how they migrate and if there is enough food for them.
“Why train dogs to find scat?” Dogs have a great sense of smell. They are used in a lot of different areas to help human e.g. sniffer dogs or rescue dogs. When using them as scat dogs they can locate samples for multiple species over large areas in a short time. When sampling with a dog, the method becomes less biased, making it incredibly valuable for conservation planners.
The conservation of the Northern Right whale population and studies of their health is extremely important. They were hunted close to extinction in the 1930’s and have since then not recovered. There are only 350 individuals left, so conservation of this whale species is crucial. Scientists have been trying to get data on why the population is not increasing, but the sampling methods has not given them any insight to what the problem is, therefore they want to look at the whale scatter. The main problem with collecting whale scat is that after about 1 hour it sinks to the bottom of the ocean so it needs to be found fast. The scatter dogs will stand in the front of the boat directing the skipper to where the scat can be found. The only problem is stopping the dogs from jumping in and swimming to the scat. Using scatter dogs have increased the amount of collected feces by 4 times.