First scatdog team for wolves certified

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Carolin Scheiter and Pepper have passed the field test.

Author: Carolin Scheiter

Scat and coexistence

“Yuck, you can’t be serious…? What a stupid idea!” That’s presumably what my dog Pepper was thinking, as I tried to make wolf faeces “palatable” for her. Pepper is a three-year-old female Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and her day job is as a rescue dog for avalanche and area search in the State of Salzburg. A year ago I started the scatdog training for wolf scat with her as part of the alpine-wide project LIFEstockProtect. The goal of the project is to train dogs to detect wolf scat – and thereby contribute to the coexistence of humans, grazers and wild animals in the Alps. An exciting as well as important task!

Pepper is a work-friendly, diligent dog, who is used to using her nose from her aforementioned occupational training. That she should start searching for wolf droppings instead of people in danger initially took some persuasion… However, through the intensive and positively reinfored training led by Dr. Leopold Slotta-Bahmayr and Dr. Gabriele Sauseng, Pepper was soon convinced of her new job.

Successful test

At the beginning of September 2021 we took the first part (Level A) of the two-part test to become a scatdog – in the sweltering summer heat. The focus here was on scent differentiation: only the scat of wolves should be detected; Pepper had to ignore the distracting scat from foxes, martens, dogs and other animals. Thanks to the good preparation in the Naturschutzhunde-Team, this wasn’t a problem for Pepper! Part two of the test (Level B) at the beginning of December 2021 was a different story. Here we had to detect and reliably indicate eight wolf scats along a 2.2 kilometer trail at temperatures below freezing with gusts of wind and snow. This task too, Pepper completed flawlessly. Now we are the first certified task force for wolf scats within LIFEstockProtect – we are both overjoyed and very excited about the coming tasks.

We’d like to thank the LIFEstockProtect project management for the opportunity to complete this exciting training, thanks to Leo Slotta-Bachmayr and Gabi Sauseng from Naturschutzhunden for the high-quality training and thanks also to all the other teams who still have the tests ahead of them. The trainings were great and we had a valuable exchange with you, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for you!

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