Friday, May 18, 2012

Gorilla Scat Sniffing Dog Finds Endangered Species (Bigfoot Too?)

All this Border Collie Needs is the Scent of Some Bigfoot Scat
"...the dogs, after training, can pick out animal scat and completely cut out the need to trap the animal and interrupt their ecosystem." -- Alice Whitelaw, Founder of Working Dogs for Conservation 

In an article posted today at the Belgrade News we learn of dogs that are trained to sniff scat and find endangered species in a non-evasive way. They already used Orbee, a border collie, to track down the world's rarest Gorilla! The resume does not stop there Orbee has also found wolverines, grizzly bears and endangered kit foxes

Gorilla-sniffing dog lives a life of adventure


Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012 1:52 pm
Hannah Stiff 

Traveling to Cameroon, Africa to track the rarest gorilla on earth, the Cross River gorilla, is a dream for many conservation biologists, travelers and primate enthusiasts alike. But a local dog recently did just that, for two months.
  
Orbee, a border collie adopted from a Dillon shelter, has been traveling the country and internationally, sniffing out species on the brink of extinction and invasive species, like nap weed.

The affable collie is a part of an eight-dog group that comprises the Working Dogs for Conservation group. Most of the other seven canines were adopted from shelters by the women who run the group.
Four women founded Working Dogs for Conservation in 2000. Alice Whitelaw was one of them. She said high-energy dogs that don’t make great pets make great conservation dogs.

Orbee went from unemployed ranch dog to highly employed conservation dog in a few short months, Whitelaw said.

With the three other women, all scientists and informal dog-trainers, Whitelaw hatched a plan. The crux of the plan was to use smart, energetic dogs for the benefit of science and conservation. In practice, that meant rigorously training adopted dogs to sniff out specific scat. The goal was to track vanishing species’without ever having to trap the animal.

Whitelaw said she practiced using monitoring devices and traps to follow migration patterns of diminishing species’. But the dogs, after training, can pick out animal scat and completely cut out the need to trap the animal and interrupt their ecosystem.

“Instead of finding narcotics or bombs in suitcases, these dogs are trained to find scat,” she said. “Then we’re able to pick up on endangered species’ and non-invasively follow that population.”

With advancements in extracting DNA from scat, Whitelaw and the other women forged a partnership between canines and conservation.

The dogs’ performance in the field is quite remarkable, considering they were once dubbed inappropriate house pets and left at a shelter. Not only do the eight conservation dogs track scat, they also sniff out noxious weeds and invasive species’.

Tsavo, another working dog who lives with Whitelaw, was recently hunting for dangerous plants on Mount Sentinel in Missoula.

Another dog spent time in Oregon tracking a snail population that was decimating other native tree snails.  
Orbee was a meant to be a cattle-herding dog, he just didn’t know it, so his owners dropped him at an animal shelter. Since the conservation group adopted him, Orbee has built an impressive resume.

He just returned from fieldwork in California where he was sniffing out tiny blunt-nosed leopard lizards that are quickly disappearing. His trip to Cameroon marked the historic beginning of the country using dogs to track the elusive gorillas. Orbee has also tracked wolverines, grizzly bears and endangered kit foxes.

If endangered species can be non-invasively followed, Whitelaw said scientists can work on strategies to keep them from going extinct and protecting their homelands.  The job requires a lot of traveling for Whitelaw and her dogs, but the rapid advances it offers to science is worth the frenzied pace, she said.
And when the dogs aren’t in the field, they’re treated like family, being taken home by their trainers, living with other house pets, and roaming in spacious fields.

“Our dogs aren’t in kennels. All the handlers have their dogs living with them,” she said. “They live with our families, with our other pets. We find that that has increased their working lifespan significantly.”
Because they aren’t kept in cages, but rather treated like family, Whitelaw said the dogs love to work.
“Patrol and bomb dogs are retired at seven or eight years old,” she said. “Tsavo is still working at 11.”
The Working Dogs for Conservation headquarters are in Whitelaw’s house on a plot of land in Three Forks. Other founders and employees are spread around Missoula and California, but Three Forks is definitely home base, Whitelaw said.  

In addition to their busy work schedule, five of the eight conservation dogs are competing in the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. Orbee is one of those dogs. Of the five dogs competing, two were rescues from Montana shelters, and two also live in the Gallatin Valley.

7 comments:

  1. Great post! Was considering writing a blog post on using dogs in the search for the big guy myself, then this came out. Ya beat me to it!

    Also, I think the labels for this post apply to every dog! Lol

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  2. Argentine Dogos are used to hunt large game animals I'm pretty sure 9 or 10 of them could track and kill a Sasquatch

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  3. What kind of idiot wants to have dogs killing a Sasquatch? It is almost as pathetic as it is sick, if not illegal in many jurisdictions to hunt with and even to own in some. It is also used in dog fights. Is that your idea? To see a dog fight with the Skookum?

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  4. You must have lower than a fifth grade reading level if you missed this:
    If endangered species can be non-invasively followed, Whitelaw said scientists can work on strategies to keep them from going extinct and protecting their homelands.

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  5. Sean Connery I read the article I know it's about scent tracking, but we need a body it sucks I don't live in Texas if I did me and me four American bulldogs ranging in size from The puppy who's a year and a half weighing a solid 93 pounds and my oldest his uncle weighs 128 pounds they would be out there hunting and assisting take down one dogs especially bulldogs have a high prey drive it's natural for my dogs to hunt I would never fight my dogs and I don't condone dog fighting its heartless and Inhumane And there prey drive is as natural as your drive to be a douche

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    1. And you know nothing about the dog just what you just pulled up on wiki dog bans are pointless when it's the owners fault not the dogs my uncle owns and breeds American pitbull terriers that are used on farms in Georgia for crop and cattle protection and are the most loving and affectionate dogs you'll ever meet point being dogs were not ment to be dog aggressive we made that happen over time with redneck idiots with too much time on the hands dominate breed dogs are not for everyone

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  6. Our pitbull keeps our 6 yr old & 3 yr old safe when they are playing outside in the yard. She is very sweet and loving towards the kids and to all of us. However, nothing comes in the yard that we don't bring into the yard. She also follows my wife and kids when they walk around our property. I have no doubt she would give her life protecting and of us, though it isn't necessary with me since I am always armed.

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