Specially Trained Dogs Help Conservationists Find Rare Turtles

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You are about to read about some of the coolest dogs on the planet!

An eastern Iowa conservation group takes an unconventional approach to tracking rare turtles on its land. Having Iowa Public Radio along with a man who’s trained his hunting dogs to find the reptiles for researchers. Counting the creatures will help conservationists manage the land better.


When not at home in Montana, John Rucker and his four Boykin spaniels travels the country with his specially-trained hunting dogs, helping scientists and conservationists find turtles.

The dogs, along with the instruction of Rucker, venture through undergrowth, checking in brush piles and under old logs. When the dogs find a turtle, they’ll pick it up and bring it back to be counted.

Rucker states, “You will notice that as soon as they strike a scent trail their tails will start wagging furiously, and then their whole demeanor becomes extremely excitable.”.


In one instance, the team searched for Ornate box turtles. Ornate box turtles are a remnant species of the country’s vast prairies, where they co-evolved with wild bison. They are a vulnerable species in America’s prairies.

Ornate box turtle. CREDIT KATE PAYNE/IPR

It may seem like a lot of effort for a couple of relatively small creatures. But Rucker says the loss of even a single species can upset the balance of an ecosystem.

Over all, it is absolutely incredible that these adorable pups are being trained and used for such an awesome task!