By Linda Cole
We are constantly finding new ways to use a dog’s nose and their ability to control other animals in ways that are ecologically friendly and effective. Wildlife detection dogs are used at airports to keep runways free of pesky wild birds that can pose a danger to pilots, and at golf courses to control birds and other wildlife. Dogs are also being trained to help wildlife groups track and manage wildlife populations.
If you’ve ever taken your dog on a hike through the woods or along your favorite trail, you can tell their nose is in full gear pulling in all of the enticing scents they find on the ground and in the air. A pile of dung along the trail means nothing to us, as long as we don’t step in it, but to a dog it’s a very interesting prize to find. A nonprofit organization was created in 2000 called Working Dogs for Conservation. This organization trains and provides scat-detection dogs to help biologists find, manage and research wildlife populations.
For wildlife biologists, animal droppings can give them valuable information about the animal that left it. Biologists can determine how healthy the animal is by what it’s been eating, what their range is, what their reproductive status is, and if their immune system is working properly. They can also learn if there are toxins in the environment from what they find in an animal’s scat. This is important because it can alert biologists to any potential problems with a toxin that could affect people as well. Endangered animals can be tracked to determine if they are recovering or if they need more protection.