July 13, 2013

Tucker, The Orca Poop Sniffing Dog!

The great weather continued today as Captain Jim, passengers, and I sped up along the west side of San Juan Island to meet up with a few L Pod members. As you might have read in earlier posts, L-22, Spirit, and her two sons, L-79, Skana, and Solstice, L-89, have been consistently found milling along the west side of San Juan this summer. Today was no exception!  They seemed to be the only show in town, since all the boats were out and about, including the University of Washington, Center for Conservation Biology's boat.

The Center for Conservation Biology is a program that utilizes canines to help acquire fecal samples left behind by our Southern Resident Orcas. The researchers will follow in a zig-zag pattern downwind of the orcas, so that Tucker, the poop sniffing dog, can smell the samples. It is said that Tucker can smell a sample up to a mile away!  Once upon the sample, Tucker is rewarded with a game of tug-o-war while researchers use their specially designed poop scoopers to grab the sample. Not a bad life! From these samples researchers are able to study stress, nutrition, and reproductive hormones found in the resident orcas. It is an important study that can help shed light on the instability of our resident community, as well as, give whale watchers pause as they watch Tucker go about his daily job!

 

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris