Conservation detection dogs assist with ecology surveys

Earlier this year JBA Ecologist, Jenny Dhinsa was joined on-site by two specially trained conservation detection dogs to assist in identifying Water Vole latrines. Here she shares the benefits of working with conservation detection dogs - and the valuable skills they contribute to site work.

Written by Jenny Dhinsa | Senior Ecologist

Working with conservation detection dogs

Whilst conducting a site survey over the summer, we were joined on site by Monty and Pippa, two specialist conservation dogs from Imprint Ecology. Due to the dense vegetation and large amount of silt that creates difficult surveying conditions for humans, Monty and Pippa were tasked with searching for Water Vole latrines along a stretch of the beck.

To ensure they are able to identify the latrines, detection dogs are imprinted on the scent of Water Vole burrows and droppings. To improve their accuracy the dogs are also tested to identify water vole droppings in presence of rat, mouse, and bird droppings.

How do they communicate with their handler?

Once they’ve detected a scent the dogs are trained to offer a passive freeze indication, highlighting to the handler that they’ve detected a Water Vole scent, at which point they’re rewarded with positive reinforcement in the form of their favourite toy or food.

During this site visit, no Water Vole latrines or burrows were found by either the detection dogs, the handler or our team of surveyors. This gave us confidence that water voles were not present within the searched area.

How do conservation detection dogs do it?

Research has shown that dogs are far more effective than human-only search teams due to their quick and non-biased attributes. This means conservation dogs that have been trained to detect the scent of a particular species can be an economical asset when surveying for protected species – and it was very pleasing to be joined on-site by conservation detection dogs for the first time.

What are the benefits?

By using wildlife detection dogs when surveying conditions are difficult, our ecologists will be able to deliver more thorough ecological surveys in the future. Ultimately, providing surveyors and clients with the confidence that comprehensive surveys can be completed despite difficult surveying conditions.

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Want to know more?

Find more information about the survey work and expertise offered by our Ecology team, contact Jenny Dhinsa.


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