Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sniffer dog has an unusual sniffing job

Tucker whale poop sniffer

If working dogs worried about the status of their jobs like humans do, Tucker the sniffer dog might lie to the other dogs about what he does.
Tucker doesn’t sniff out cool stuff like money, drugs, fugitives, missing children, harmful insects or invasive plants. Tucker sniffs out whale poop.
In fact Tucker is the most important member of the crew searching for whale poop because he is the one they depend on to find it up to a mile away.
Killer whales in Puget Sound were placed on the endangered species list in 2005 and they are not recovering. A team of researchers is trying to find out why by studying their poop or what they consider “scientific gold.”
According to Sam Wasser, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, scientists have developed techniques to analyze feces from all over the world. He calls it scientific gold.
"We can measure the diet of the animal. We can get toxins from the feces, DNA so we can tell the individual's identity, its species, its sex — and all of this is in feces," he says. "So it's literally a treasure trove of information."
But finding whale poop isn’t easy and so the team added Tucker.
Tucker is an 8-year-old black Lab mix. He's what those in the dog world call "ball-obsessed." He'll do anything for a game of fetch — even if that means sniffing out floating whale scat from a mile away — because he knows that when he finds the scat, he gets to play with his ball.
As the boat zeros in on a pod of whales, Tucker is relaxed. But when he gets a whiff of “scientific gold,” he gets very excited and the crew attempts to locate it floating on the surface.
Tucker is referred to as their “scat-detection dog” which is actually a pretty important sounding job title.

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