Max, like most all of the Conservation Canines, is a rescue dog. An Australian Cattle dog adopted at two years old from the Everett Animal Shelter, Max is trained to detect Wolverine, Northern Spotted Owl, Barred Owl, Grizzly bear, Black bear, American Pine Marten, Tiger, Leopard.
Through the noses and efforts of this hard working group of dogs, finding and collecting scat allows monitoring of a wide variety of species worldwide and can provide a very reliable, widespread and more affordable monitoring system to help scientists analyze scat and determine a multitude of information from population decline, toxin levels and contamination, to migration, reproductive viability and more.
As human population grows and becomes more widespread it creates an ever-increasing demand on the environment. By monitoring the impact, behaviors and lives of a wide variety of species, a lot can be discovered about the lives of wild animals and help determine the best means of creating a more balance planet for all living things.
The Conservation Canines program began in 1997 by Dr. Samuel Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology. With an idea, he called on Sgt. Barbara Davenport, master canine trainer with the Washington State Department of Corrections, to begin a program by expanding upon the training of narcotics detection dogs and teaching dogs to locate scat from threatened and endangered species. Now the Conservation Canines program works to monitor a wide variety of species throughout the world including tigers, orcas, fishers, spotted owls, bears, wolves, caribou, giant armadillos, giant anteaters, pumas, jaguars, and even Pacific pocket mice.
If you've ever had a dog with extreme levels of high energy and an insatiable work ethic, you'll understand how happy these dogs are to 'work.' Many of the dogs in the Conservation Canines program are rescues or owner surrenders; relinquished because of their high energy and high drive which wasn't a good fit for their former home. Now these wonderful dogs have received a new leash on life as a working dog. But these dogs think of their work as play! Each time they detect scat, whether during training or on working day, they are rewarded with one-on-one play time with their handlers.
This is Waylon, an owner surrender in 2010, who is now working with a research project through Conservation Canines funded by Washington SeaGrant. Waylon's job is to locate the scat of Orca Killer Whales that can be analyzed for stress, nutrition, toxin levels and reproductive hormones to help in assessing the decline in the whales’ primary prey, Chinook salmon; the disturbance from private and commercial whale watching vessels; and exposure to high levels of toxins such as PCB, PBDE and DDT which are stored in the whales’ fat.
And here's Chester, adopted from the Seattle Humane in December 2008, who is trained to sniff out Wolverine, Grizzly Bear, Black Bear, Bobcat. Last year Chester, along with fellow CK9 Scooby, helped Wisconsin with it's bobcat management program, by sniffing out scat to determine density and distribution.
Watch more about Conservation Canines and their good work in keeping our environment balanced:
And get a dog's eye view from Scooby of what it's like to sniff out scat.