Carapace Chronicles

Born to track
July 7, 2010, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Pardon my absence! I’ve had a busy few weeks writing my abstract and doing blood work. It’s been tedious but I’m getting the hang of the different types of white-blood cells. Beginning on Monday, the turtle-tracking dogs will be back and we will be in the field for 8 days trying to catch as many turtles as possible! I want to tell you a little bit about these guys because they are very, very talented and fantastic to watch.

John Rucker is the master of these turtle-tracking Boykin Spaniels. There are anywhere from 4-8 dogs that track at any given time. The A-team is made up of Jinny-wren, J-Byrd, Snapper, Sparky, and Gretta. The B-team of Rose, Mink, and Rooster. Sparky is the oldest living turtle dog on the team and is a legend in his field. We have gotten to know each other pretty well as it’s been so hot and he has hung out with me. Jinny-wren is the current #1 turtle dog on the A-team. There is a new batch of puppies that are just beginning their training to carry on the turtle legacy.

We start out early in the morning to minimize the Southern heat. First, the high-schoolers participating in the project will douse all the dogs in water to cool them down before the team sets off.

We follow them all over our study site as they run, nose to ground, sniffing for the scent of the box turtle. When it hasn’t rained in a long time it is harder for the dogs to track the turtles because they hunker down in the leaves and don’t move. We are in that right now, it hasn’t rained in a long time but the dogs still manage to pull 10-15 turtles out of the site in a hour.

Once a turtle is found, whether it be by a log or under leaves, the turtle is removed from them and John and the lucky dog celebrate together. It is so neat to watch, both John and the dog get very excited and you can tell they are both pleased.

Watching these dogs is something special. Hopefully when we go out into the field next week I will be able to get a video of them in action to post on here so you guys can see. Without them, human searches average roughly 0.8 turtles an hour. This summer we have been averaging roughly 8 turtles an hour. The difference is extraordinary! I thank these dogs everyday for what they do and the fact that they have provided me with a fantastic number of turtles!


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