Marine Biologists Use Dog to Track Whales

So you think your dog has a pretty good nose? Let me ask you this: can your dog track a whale across the ocean just by the scent of its, uh... effluvium? This dog can.

A dog named Tucker with a thumping tail and a mysterious past as a stray on the streets of Seattle has become an unexpected star in the realm of canine-assisted science. He is the world’s only working dog, marine biologists say, able to find and track the scent of orca scat, or feces, in open ocean water — up to a mile away, in the smallest of specks.
That's right. Tucker can track whales for his scientist masters just by sniffing for the whale's dumpage. And while you may say "yeah, but come on, it's whale poo we're talking about here, and that's a lot of poo!" just remember that is across open ocean, from up to a mile way. I'd say that Tucker has a pretty incredible schnoz, because according to the story, killer whale poo actually doesn't smell much.

From the story: One thing to get out of the way quickly: orca scat really does not smell that bad. Perhaps because the animals eat mostly Chinook salmon — the tastiest kind, many human seafood lovers agree — the scent is more fish than foul. But unlike, say, a narcotics-sniffing dog that can lead its human around by a leash, the research boat itself is, in effect, Tucker’s legs when he has picked up the aroma. He cannot physically go where the sample is to be found, but must somehow signal where he wants the boat to go, with the feces somewhere out there on the water. Like a Delphic oracle whose every nuanced expression must be interpreted by acolytes — Tucker might lean to one side of the boat, then another, then suddenly sink back onto his green mat with his head between his paws, the scent lost — his nose for scat leads on, and all must follow.

The first thing that popped into my mind when I read this was to wonder what the late, great Bill Tarrant would have thought of this latest demonstration of the dog's inherent perfection. In his columns and in his books Tarrant wrote beautifully of the seeming preternatural scenting, cognition and empathetic abilities of all dogs, not just sporting dogs. In fact, much of what Tarrant wrote about and believed in about dogs, which a cynic might have discounted as mystic hooey, has since been supported by some pretty interesting science. It's damned amazing, really, and I cannot help but think Mr. Tarrant would have gotten a helluva kick out of reading how Tucker can bird-dog a pod of killer whales across the flat, featureless ocean.

Source: www.fieldandstream.com

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