EarthTalk by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss – Enlisting Dogs in Wildlife Protection

Put simply, conservation dogs are dogs specially trained to spot specific wildlife evidence that scientists are seeking to learn more about for one reason or another. Most often, these dogs are used to help biologists understand where and how threatened or endangered wildlife hang out – or if they are still around.

At the forefront of this burgeoning field is Rogue Detection Teams, a Washington state-based nonprofit that sends its specially trained dogs to North America and beyond to aid scientific researchers. , government agencies and nonprofit groups to collect evidence on the ground in order to deepen their conservation work.


It’s no wonder that environmentalists began to use detector dogs, a common practice in the military and law enforcement since the 1940s, when US troops first used dogs for detection. German landmines in North Africa. By pairing ecologically and biologically savvy human handlers (“limiters”) with odor-trained detector dogs, conservationists can monitor the density, distribution and overall health of certain species of concern.

Namely, Rogue’s dogs have worked all over the world to help conservation groups strengthen their cases with hard data collected in the field. The majority of Rogue’s work so far has been in the American West, but teams are scattered as far as Brazil, Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle -Orient in search of everything from sea turtles and grasshoppers to pygmy rabbits, big cats, red foxes and bumblebees.

What Makes a Perfect Conservation Dog? The best detection dogs wouldn’t necessarily make great pets, as they tend to be obsessed with accumulating rewards.

“Our dogs are generally considered unadoptable due to their high energy and obsessive desire to play fetch,” says Jennifer Hartman of Snape. “This obsessive energy is absolutely perfect for us as we associate it with detecting a scent and rewarding our dogs with their ball for locating the scent.” Snape dogs can travel up to 15 miles per day on investigative work and still have energy for more play time after searching.

And it doesn’t take a specific breed or size of dog – it all depends on so-called “high ball training”.

“We have quite a few Labrador mixes as well as heel mixes because these seem to be strong-driving dogs that end up in shelters, but we also have a chihuahua mix and what could be a butterfly mix. in our program, ”Hartman reports. “We all love dogs and don’t discriminate as long as they like to play fetch! “

Snape leads 19 dogs out of his seat. The organization, founded in 2019 by a group of conservation-oriented dog handlers who had been doing this kind of work on their own for over a decade, also runs programs to train other people’s dogs (and their owners). to these “canine detections.” ” practices.

Through his training work, Rogue hopes to develop the next generation of Limits to continue the innovative work of conservation dogs in helping other species latch on in this compromised world of warming.

EarthTalk is written by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss. Send your questions to [email protected]

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