Alaskan scientists have been receiving some field assistance in recent years from furry, four-legged colleagues. “Detection dogs and their use in wildlife research and conservation have been more widely used because it’s a really great, noninvasive way to locate (animals),” says wildlife biologist Tory Rhoads. “They’re particularly useful for elusive species.”
During summer 2019, Rhoads used a scent detection dog to help locate the small spaces where bats in southeast Alaska were hibernating. A dog named Jack trained by smelling fur samples and various items that had been rubbed against bats. Then Rhoads and a handler took Jack to ridges where she knew bats were congregating. Jack would indicate where he smelled bat odor, and Rhoads would mark the spot and set up a game camera so the site could be monitored remotely.
Before heading into the field, Rhoads wasn’t sure Jack would be able to successfully find the odors left lingering by bats and pinpoint hibernacula. But the canine proved the power of his nose. “We got footage of a bat landing within the bullseye of the chalk. We had that happen on a number of occasions, which was just phenomenal,” she says. “It blew us away.”