8232 Dogs Trained To Save Endangered Wildlife

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Dogs trained to save endangered wildlife
11th January 2019

By Karen Pickwick

Hedgehog expert Lucy Bearman-Brown is helping to train a special ‘detection dog’ to sniff out hedgehogs so they can be moved out of harm’s way in land development projects.

Lucy, a senior lecturer in animal science at Hartpury University, has teamed up with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society to work with a springer spaniel called Henry, one of a group of conservation dogs from Conservation K9 Consultancy.
By training dogs like Henry, whose sense of smell is 100,000 times more sensitive than a human’s, it is hoped nesting hedgehogs can be found and moved to safety before their habitat is cleared for development.

As hedgehogs spend 85% of their life in their nest in dense undergrowth and long grass they are in danger whenever land is cleared or long grass is mown.

Working alongside Henry’s trainer, Louise Wilson, Lucy starts by finding hedgehogs herself the traditional way with spotlights and marks them with a small radio-tracking device. Henry then searches the area, and Lucy can see how effective he is at finding the hedgehogs in a range of different habitats, during the day and night.

THERMAL CAMERAS

Lucy then searches the area again herself, this time using thermal cameras, to see if modern technology can help with detection rates.

“Early results are really encouraging,” said Lucy, who has appeared on national TV and radio. “As we suspected, Henry’s already been finding hedgehogs that I couldn’t locate using traditional methods – he is incredible.”

Henry is trained to locate hedgehogs without stressing or hurting them; when he finds one he lets Louise know by quietly sitting nearby and looking at her.

“He then gets his reward, a game of fetch with his ball, away from the hedgehog,” she said.

“These early findings suggest we may soon have a new method that is more effective for finding hedgehogs at risk from land development, so we can move them out of harm’s way.”

The plan is that once this concept is proven, more dogs can be trained to help find hidden hedgehogs.