Europe’s first stoat detection dogs arrive in Orkney - RSPB

Three specially trained conservation detection dogs are the most recent team members for a project to safeguard Orkney’s native wildlife. The trio will be using their sensitive noses to assist the world’s largest stoat eradication.

The first stoat detection dogs in Europe have arrived in Orkney. They are the latest team members for a project aiming to safeguard the future of Orkney’s native wildlife and economy by removing invasive non-native stoats and ensuring they do not return in the future.

The dogs have been trained specifically for the Orkney Native Wildlife Project to indicate the scent of stoats to their handlers. They arrived in Orkney at the end of April and have spent the last two weeks in an intensive training course designed to test their handlers’ skills. During the course, the dogs – Scout, Thorn and Spud – were also each matched with their new handler.

The bond between a detection dog and their handler is critical to them being an effective team and therefore the matching process is a serious part of the training. Now, these three new pairings are ready to begin their important role in the world’s largest stoat eradication project.

Stoats are notoriously difficult to detect particularly when their populations are at low densities. Dogs have around 300 million scent receptors in their nose and their ability to pick up scent is 40 times greater than humans. Therefore, the canine team members will help establish the absence of stoats more efficiently and effectively than human efforts to report sightings and monitor for signs alone.

Like other detection dogs, they have been rigorously trained to the highest standards akin to those used to train drug or bomb “sniffer” dogs. The difference is that Scout, Thorn and Spud are trained to identify signs of stoats and to indicate this to their handlers.

Posted on: 19 May 2021

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