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Please forgive the gratuitous posting of the Italian cover of A Dog At Sea –I’ve been told I look distinguished (also, the Garzanti softcover is coming out soon).  The image has nothing to do with the post which has to do with just how good dogs are at tracking down scat for naturalists.

The article from the Times is below and linked here:

January 14, 2011

Four-Legged Investigators Sniff Out Wildlife Data

Scat-sniffing dogs are becoming increasingly popular among scientists as assistants that can gather data about a wildlife area.

The dogs can be trained to sniff out the scat of other animals and to help researchers estimate population statistics.

But according to new research in The Journal of Wildlife Management, a dog’s ability to sniff scat could vary based on a number of factors, including air temperature and precipitation.

“We really wanted to understand what some of the factors were that limit dogs’ abilities to detect,” said Sarah Reed, the study’s lead author and a conservation biologist at Colorado State University. The study was part of her graduate research at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Reed and her colleagues found that precipitation had the greatest influence on the dogs’ abilities. Dogs are more likely to find scat between May and October, when it is drier, since the scat has a chance to accumulate.

Air temperature also seems to have an effect, since dogs can’t smell as well when they are overheated and panting. The exact effect depends on a specific dog’s heat tolerance, Dr. Reed said.

She hopes that other researchers will create calibration tools that measure how optimally their detection dogs perform in different conditions.

Regardless of their handicaps, dogs are much more capable than humans at scoping out scat.

Trained dogs can detect scat up to 33 feet away about 75 percent of the time, the researchers found.

Humans, on the other hand, can see scat only within three to five feet.

January 17th, 2011
10:37 pm

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