Some turtle-sniffing dogs have been called upon to help fish out box turtles. Scientists at St. Louis zoo called out these dogs to detect box turtles that are being threatened by a fatal disease.
The Wildcare Park at St. Louis Zoo is a 425-acre land preserved to be used as part of the extensive conservation programming in the zoo. Seven Boykin spaniels sniffed for three-toed box turtles. The population of this species has been declining due to development; however, it has declined more due to a pathogen called Ranavirus.
Scientists don’t know much about the disease. This disease affects fish, turtles, and other amphibians, but it is about 80% fatal in box turtles.
The zoo had to call John Rucker, the “Turtle Whisperer.” Rucker trained his dogs to sniff out box turtles and these dogs are the only dogs in the world that can do this kind of work.
Just like they did in Illinois and Iowa, these dogs helped the research team in Missouri to track and get back box turtles. Their sense of smell allows them to track these animals within a few hours where it would take humans some weeks.
These turtle-sniffing dogs have helped the scientists at Saint Louis Zoo to discover box turtles with Ranavirus. With this, researchers will be able to learn more about the virus. This will also help them know how to treat and prevent the spread of the virus.
Every year we do annual health assessments of our turtles at our field sites. We spread out in a line and just walk the woods, eyes to the ground—and we don’t do it well because they’re good at hiding.Jamie Palmer, of the St. Louis Zoo