Conservation Dog in Training

Great Hollow

Conservation dogs have become an increasingly common and powerful tool in the battle to protect rare and endangered species. Similar to their canine counterparts at police departments, customs agencies, and search and rescue organizations, conservation dogs are trained to use their powerful sense of smell to track down  species of wildlife that are too elusive for people to reliably find using traditional survey methods. When the New Jersey Trail Conference needed to find wood turtles with which to train their new conservation dog, they knew just who to contact! Great Hollow’s naturalist, John Foley, has been radio-tracking and monitoring wood turtles at various sites in the Hudson Valley for years and has a knack for finding these secretive aquatic turtles like nobody else. Trainer Arden Blumenthal and her 2-year-old lab “Peat” recently spent a day in the field with John, who came through as always and was able to locate a wood turtle for Peat to smell and then practice finding. After a few more experiences like this, the dog is expected to be able to search new sites for possible wood turtle populations in a fraction of the time and with much greater accuracy than human surveyors. She’s already trained on eastern box turtles, New England cottontails, and several other species of conservation concern in our region that can prove very difficult to find. We’re pleased to have aided in her training with yet another imperiled species that she can now help find in order to identify occupied habitats to prioritize for conservation. Nice job Peat!

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