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Conservation


Dog-handler teams working in service to Science

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Conservation


Dog-handler teams working in service to Science

Our dog-handler teams are capable of providing a service unlike any other field research practice. Instead of approaching an issue one factor (or species) at a time, we locate and provide data on multiple facets of any given ecosystem, at rates unmatched by other techniques. This broad-scale information points researchers toward the best actions to take to successfully rehabilitate ecosystems and increase the long-term resilience of species against future impacts.

Our teams provide valuable information to natural resource managers, researchers and conservation organizations leading to important conservation outcomes, including:

  • Identification of the stressors most responsible for the decline of Southern Resident killer whales between Washington and British Columbia, determining necessary actions to reduce toxin exposure, disturbance from whale watching vessels and the effect of the decreased population of Chinook salmon, the whale’s primary prey;

  • Location of endangered caribou herds in Alberta, Canada, preventing construction of roads that would otherwise have destroyed the critical lichen habitats upon which this species depends;

  • Expansion of the known range of the endangered pacific pocket mouse, a small but very critical species for maintaining the function of threatened sage-scrub ecosystems, digging burrows that increase nutrient cycling in the soil, dispersing seeds and encouraging plant growth.

  • Identification of the encroachment of the invasive barred owl as the primary stressor responsible for the decline in spotted owl populations in the pacific northwest.

We stay on the leading-edge in the selection, training and fielding of our dogs. Training and maintenance of the skills of our dogs has long been our primary focus for success in this field and we are incredibly proud of our work thus far, meeting and exceeding the highest standards for success.

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In The Field


Our Expertise at work

In The Field


Our Expertise at work

It’s a cold, foggy morning high in the Pyrenees, the well-known mountain chain in southwestern Europe that forms a formidable wall between France and Spain. The night brought rain, making the steep terrain treacherously slick. Heath Smith, lead trainer with CK9, struggles to keep up with his teammate Chester, a bouncing, blond, 10 year-old lab cross. Chester is sure-footed, bounding, lively in the cool temps and the damp air. Smith takes one step forward, slides two back, and his lungs are aching for more oxygen in the thin air. Each time he climbs higher, he sees Chester sitting, waiting patiently. Each time he arrives, Chester hops up and scampers effortlessly over another rise, always stopping to be certain his partner is with him. Smith watches him closely while catching his breath, fully trusting that his teammate, a highly experienced veteran CK9, knows exactly what he is doing.

When Chester finally slows down, allowing Smith to catch up, he whips around and sits next to a fresh, steaming scat. Not just any scat: Ursus arctos, grizzly bear, the same species found in North America. A 1995 reintroduction program brought the species to the area from Slovenia and today less than 20 are known to survive. Conservationists want to understand more about the remaining population and enlisted the help of CK9 team Smith and Chester. The small, but information-rich piece of data they just located will unlock important clues for scientists studying this tiny population.  

With Smith’s deep knowledge of the skills and experiences of his canine teammate, they were able to locate a fresh grizzly bear scat in densely vegetated, steep terrain that extends 270 miles, from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea, and 11,168 ft high. Finding the proverbial needle in a haystack with such keen expertise is only possible through meticulous cultivation of trust and communication between dog and handler.

We work hard to foster this relationship among all teams. We encourage our dogs to think independently, to freely communicate with us and, as handlers, it is our job to understand what they are telling us. This way, we become a strong team, working together to solve some of the most pressing ecological problems around the globe.

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Working with Us


Partnering with scientists around the world

Working with Us


Partnering with scientists around the world

We work with fellow conservation practitioners to effectively incorporate our teams into their projects, collecting the best data, delivering strong results by:

  • Developing the most robust project design for this methodology, custom tailored for each project specifically;
  • Fully preparing dogs and handlers capable of locating the target scent(s) in the project habitat prior to being fielded;
  • Monitoring the success of teams to effectively collect data, addressing any problems as they arise in the field and adapting the design as needed to insure the delivery of the highest quality data upon completion of the project.

From planning, to fielding teams and the final delivery of data, we bring decades of expertise to every detail.

Interested in learning more? Contact us.