2001-Tue Jan 17 04:11:32 MST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Wicket had been in the shelter for six months. She was the sort of intense, high-energy dog that
rescuers despair of placing in a home. So when Aimee Hurt expressed interest in the year-old Lab-Shepherd mix, she says even the staff members were surprised: "They were like, that one? That one is crazy."
Hurt, who had taken Wicket outside and seen her ignore everything around her in obsessive pursuit of a ball, agreed. "But she might be the right kind of crazy," she said.
Wicket indeed turned out to be exactly the right dog for the job at Working Dogs for Conservation, a Montana-based nonprofit that helps with wildlife and conservation research.
"From Day 1, she was really tuned in and waiting for a command. She was really people focused," Hurt says. "She had a lot to prove with me because she was my second working dog, and I loved my first one. She was just different — in all the perfect ways, as it turned out."
Wicket is now being trained to sniff out her 21st target species, in preparation for a trip to Myanmar to look for elephants — or, to be more precise, for their dung.
"That is our most common project, looking for scat," says Megan Parker, one of the organization's founders, "because scat and dung are phenomenally data-rich little packets of information."
Examining droppings allows researchers to gather all kinds of information without disturbing — or even seeing — wild animals. "They have DNA, so you can extract genetic information. You can often tell individuals apart," Parker says. "You can get hormones, you can learn the sex, you can get disease and parasite information, diet information. And you can just tell where in the landscape the animal was, because it had to be there to poop."
But before scientists use their equipment to extract that information, the dogs do their jobs: finding the scat with just their noses. Not only can they tell the difference between the droppings of closely related species like different kinds of bear, but they can also tell the difference between captive and wild animals.
"We often start the dogs on captive zoo animals," Parker says, which helps the dogs learn the basics of the species. "But wild individuals and captive individuals definitely smell different, and it's not just diet — the dogs seem to ignore diet for the most part. So we try to get wild animal dung or scat from the area we are working."
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Electronic cigarettes may be growing in
popularity, but their higher concentrations
of nicotine can poison cats and…
Are you handling your pet the right way?
Our vet shares five things your pup wishes
you knew about picking him up.
We combed through 505,270 kitten
names to determine the hottest male
and female monikers of the year.
We scoured our database of 1.1 million
dogs to find out which male and female
monikers reigned supreme this past…
The laid-back American Wirehair’s crimped, coarse coat requires almost no brushing or combing.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.