A Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train is playing an important part in wildlife conservation. Train, who was too energetic to make it as a drug dog, is lending his nose to sniff out endangered species by smelling their poop.

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Train is helping conservationists like Karen DeMatteo track down some of the world’s most elusive animals, such as oncillas and jaguars, by finding their scat in the wild. DeMatteo and her colleagues are focusing their research in Argentina, and Train is helping them discover where these endangered species are calling home.

woman holding brown dog

“Everybody leaves poop behind in the forest,” DeMatteo shared. “You can figure out which habitats they like and which habitats they avoid.”

Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife

DeMatteo is using the data she gathers to help conservationists determine where they need to focus their efforts. As human populations continue to encroach on wilderness areas, researchers hope to figure out which areas of the country need better conservation practices — and Train is helping them reach their goals.

brown dog lying in grass

Before he was sniffing out wildlife, Train was placed in a drug-detection program. Train’s life as a drug-sniffing dog did not pan out, because he was far too energetic for the program. Luckily, DeMatteo snagged him up and trained him to sniff out poop instead of drugs, and the rest is history. Train’s energy also makes him ideal for tracking down wildlife in Argentina. In fact, DeMatteo and her team hiked over 600 miles in 2018 looking for scat, and Train’s energy helped him handle the workload with ease.

Before Train came along, researchers like DeMatteo relied on game cameras to find and track endangered species. The only problem with this system is that scientists have to wait until the animals cross the camera’s view. They also have to deal with theft.

Although Train is 12 years old, he has not slowed down. After Argentina, DeMatteo and her team will be traveling to Nebraska to find mountain lions, continuing Train’s assistance in wildlife conservation.

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Images via Karen DeMatteo