Tracking Cats – Scat Dogs

Tracking Cats Scat Dogs

Tracking tigers and other big cats in the wild is a challenge. Scientists typically rely on remote cameras to do the job, but there is another technique. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Marcella Kelly is a professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech.

Kelly: Another strategy besides camera trapping is to collect genetic samples from animals by picking up their feces or their scat samples. We commonly call that scat. One technique is to employ a scat detector dog. This is a dog that is trained to find target scat samples for a project, a particular project.

Jim Metzner: I’d like to volunteer my dog for this study.

Kelly: Lots of people would like to volunteer their dogs, but they have to have very specific qualities and that is a reason why it doesn’t always work to have say your pet dog.

If your dog ever ate scat that would be a very bad quality in a scat detector dog. So you need to have a dog that will identify the scat sample for you, but not get any of its DNA on that scat. So it can’t eat it, it can’t pee on it, it can’t roll in it. Those things are all off limits for a scat detector dog.

It’s not just the collecting of the scat that is needed. You also need to be able to identify that scat sample all the way down to the species and farther than that, to the individual. That is now possible with genetic techniques. We can now go through a study site with or without a scat detector dog, depending on how available scat is on the landscape, and then identify who pooped that scat out, which individual actually did that. And then we can count the number of individuals just by picking up scat samples. Another amazing kind of newer development out there.

Ambience: Barking Dogs

More on tracking big cats in upcoming programs. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Tracking Cats - Scat Dogs

No eating, peeing, or rolling in it allowed!
Air Date:03/27/2017
Scientist:
Transcript:

Tracking Cats Scat Dogs

Tracking tigers and other big cats in the wild is a challenge. Scientists typically rely on remote cameras to do the job, but there is another technique. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Marcella Kelly is a professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech.

Kelly: Another strategy besides camera trapping is to collect genetic samples from animals by picking up their feces or their scat samples. We commonly call that scat. One technique is to employ a scat detector dog. This is a dog that is trained to find target scat samples for a project, a particular project.

Jim Metzner: I'd like to volunteer my dog for this study.

Kelly: Lots of people would like to volunteer their dogs, but they have to have very specific qualities and that is a reason why it doesn't always work to have say your pet dog.

If your dog ever ate scat that would be a very bad quality in a scat detector dog. So you need to have a dog that will identify the scat sample for you, but not get any of its DNA on that scat. So it can't eat it, it can't pee on it, it can't roll in it. Those things are all off limits for a scat detector dog.

It's not just the collecting of the scat that is needed. You also need to be able to identify that scat sample all the way down to the species and farther than that, to the individual. That is now possible with genetic techniques. We can now go through a study site with or without a scat detector dog, depending on how available scat is on the landscape, and then identify who pooped that scat out, which individual actually did that. And then we can count the number of individuals just by picking up scat samples. Another amazing kind of newer development out there.

Ambience: Barking Dogs

More on tracking big cats in upcoming programs. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.