Dogs Counting Northern Spotted Owls

Photo: Larry Wan in National Wildlife

Do you remember the big push a few years back to protect the habitat of the Pacific Northwest’s northern spotted owl? Turns out scientists are now turning to dogs to check the status of the species.

According to Dec / Jan 2013 issue of National Wildlife, the magazine of the National Wildlife Federation, scientists used to use vocalization surveys to locate the rare owl. They simulated the call of the spotted owl and listened for the owl to call back. However, their habitat was being taken over by the barrel owl, who would use the survey’s calls to hunt down and kill the spotted owls.

So, scientists turned to dogs who were trained to sniff out the remains of the spotted owls’ meals to track the owls. A recent study used a Labrador mix and an Australian Shepherd mix to track the threatened owls. The dogs scored an 87% detection probability, as compared to a score of about 60% for the old vocalization surveys.

Samuel Wasser, director of the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology, says more research is needed to see how the two survey methods can be used together to greater effect than either one on their own.

Who’da thunk dogs would be used to help another species escape extinction?

Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!

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One thought on “Dogs Counting Northern Spotted Owls”

  1. Perhaps dogs can be trained to trace also other species in the wild, or assist
    biologists in their monitoring in field work or research in the wild. It shows that due to their intelligence and ability, there is a wide range of programmes where dogs can be useful. They are already trained to help the disabled, search for drugs and weapons, etc. No limit to what they can do!

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