This dog’s got a whale of a skill.
Eba, a mixed-breed rescue pooch, has been trained to sniff out whale poop as a way to help conservation biologists study the sea creatures.
The dog was in a ruff spot, having been abandoned outside a Sacramento animal shelter, before she was adopted by Dr. Deborah Giles, a killer whale researcher at the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology.
“I had no idea when I kept her that she was going to become a conservation canine,” Giles told NBC’s TODAY.
The research center Giles works at runs a program called Conservation Canines, that rescues dogs from shelters and trains them to detect wildlife scat, aka feces.
Conservation biologists can learn a lot about the health of a whale from their scat, allowing them to gather scientific data on the wellbeing of the animals.
But researchers also have to try to keep their distance from whales in order to avoid disturbing them and causing stress.
“That’s where the dog comes in because they can smell these things from a mile away — literally a mile away,” Giles said.
The poop-detecting pups typically have high energy levels and love to play. When Giles noticed that Eba kept shoving a ball into the hand of a colleague, trying to get him to play, she realized the pooch could be more than just a family pet.
The 30-pound dog spent several weeks last year learning to associate the scent of Southern Resident orca scat with a toy.