Animal Damage Control (ADC) utilizes professional Service Dogs for a variety of wildlife management functions. Each dog is trained utilizing its individual strengths to assist our field teams in managing predator conflict security, migratory birds conflict mitigation, urban coyote conflict mitigation and any problem pest situation which benefits from service dog use. The dogs perform many tasks, using their keen sense of smell, natural hunting instinct and ability to take precise direction, ADC has developed a series of procedures which act to manage conflict humanely and without lethal intervention. Below is a list highlighting some of the many jobs ADC service dogs perform daily.
- Identify active dens, nests, and travel routes used by wildlife
- Engage aggressive predators (coyotes, wolves, bears, fox) and notify dog handler of impending threat
- Simulate residential pets in public parks and greenspaces, allowing dog handlers to engage aggressive coyotes with non-lethal deterrents
- Sweep active nesting areas and deter protected birds from nesting in conflict areas such as: pipeline ROW’s, construction sites, roadside ditches, sump ponds, tailings ponds, contaminated water
- Provide early detection of large predators such as Grizzly bear, Black bear, Cougar and Wolves
- Sweep the access, trials, and edges of remote sites, leases and workspaces for dens, aggressive predators
- Aid in the removal of geese nests in permitted areas under Federal CWS Migratory Bird Damage Permit
The Service Dog Advantage
ADC’s team of service dogs is comprised of many breeds of dog. Each with its own handler and set of skills. The relationship between handler and dog is key. Our dogs are raised from puppies, developing their skills at an early age. As they mature, they gain the skill and experience, making the dog/handler bond the foundation of the working team in the field. The main advantage of using working/hunting bred and trained dogs in the field is that due to their behavior, wildlife immediately regard them as being on a par with other wild canines and not family pets. Thus, the reaction is very different and predators’ sense immediately that they are being hunted and maneuvered by the dog and handler team.
ADC capitalizes on this instinctive reaction by wildlife which ranges from curiosity to wariness, threatened and sometimes territorial or aggressive behavior to manipulate or discourage habitation, and de-escalate conflict behavior and potential conflict situations. Often our dogs remain passive and on leash in order to initiate and attract aggressive behavior from predators so aversive conditioning techniques can be deployed by the handlers. Teams will often work in tandem either in alternating roles or to provide an overwhelming force when dealing with particularly aggressive animals.
Coyotes are much more likely to become aggressive with a pet rather than the pet’s handler. So, by using a trained service dog to simulate a pet on a leash, we can draw aggressive coyotes into our handlers, and utilize not lethal deterrents such as paintball marker gun or air horn to re-educate coyotes to avoid pets and their handlers along public pathways or in any space used by local residents. As well, service dogs are able to detect coyote activity in around dens in public spaces. If there is a den in a location which will surely cause conflict, a service dog can sniff out and “mark” the den, often causing the coyotes to move den locations and therefore avoid future conflict. This reaction to the dog is much stronger than to a person, so the result is achieved passively.
Birds are another species which has a strong reaction to service dogs. ADC uses service dogs to passively push conflict birds from an area where they may endanger themselves or their nests. The reaction from the bird to the canine, which is a natural predator, is much stronger than to humans. Meaning the birds will avoid any area where they think the dogs may be working. This is especially apparent with migratory waterfowl, such as ducks, geese, and shorebirds. These birds will learn to avoid laying nests as well as feed anywhere a service dog is working. The dogs can cover 10x the area and distance of a person and can sweep areas consistently with little to no conflict with birds or nests. This allows industry to work through the summer nesting season and avoid conflict with protected birds.
Large predators often live within the workspaces of ADC’s clients. Bears, wolves, and cougar are the 3 species ADC consistently works with. The absolute safest way to avoid conflict with these animals, to know they are there! Most negative encounters with large predators occur because they are surprised or disturbed by unassuming human activity. ADC’s service dogs are used for early detection. Essentially, by utilizing the wind, and the dog’s keen sense of smell, ADC can detect any predator activity much sooner and further away than workers. The dogs will sweep an area, clear it of any danger and then stand guard for any predators who may be passing through. Any predator who is alerted will avoid the dog 99% of the time. In the off chance that the predator is aggressive, it will focus on the dog and allow workers to depart from danger.
Den locating and identification
Identifying active dens is another useful tool in avoiding conflict with predators. Often, workplaces must sweep for active dens in the fall prior to freeze up. Any area which is cleared of active vegetation must be swept throughout denning season. Any active bear den within a workspace must be marked and a buffer established. The service dogs perform two essential tasks in avoiding active dens. The first, if they are sweeping an area of concern consistently, the predator will avoid denning in this area in fear of compromising the den. The second, the dog will smell and alert of any active den within a workspace much more consistently than any tool workers have. Their nose misses nothing, meaning workers can sweep a large area very quickly and confirm any dens which may cause conflict.