Dog Is Trained To Track And Find Endangered Turtles

Dogs can do some pretty impressive things. Not only can they put a smile on our face without any problem, but they can also be trained to sniff out almost anything imaginable. Some may look for drugs, others may look for bombs but for a dog named Koda, it was something much more interesting.

Koda is an Australian shepherd mix that is trained to track and find Eastern box turtles. In Massachusetts, they are becoming increasingly rare because of the loss of habitat. The dog was trained for a year and was able to test her abilities in late August with a trip to the field with Zoo New England staff. We’re happy to report that things went well.

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Turtle dog on the job! After almost a year of training and learning how to track box turtles, 1.5 year old Australian shepherd mix, Koda, joined Zoo New England’s Grassroots Wildlife Conservation (GWC) team in the field for the first time on August 25. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Up until this first field adventure, Koda’s training had involved finding empty turtle shells, so this was a big step for the pup! Here’s more from one of Koda’s trainers, Christine: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “This visit to the field was the next step in Koda’s training. Typically, her training involves finding an old empty turtle shell scented with turtle bedding, so this was the first time that she encountered a living turtle! Julie, from GWC, had gone out ahead of time to make sure there were some turtles nearby for Koda to find. We wanted to set her up for success for her first time in the field. At first, Koda was a little bit nervous seeing a live turtle … it moves! Upon closer inspection, Koda realized the turtles were harmless, and she was eager to find more. Koda found six turtles on her first day in the field, which was very impressive. Julie had found five turtles ahead of time, so the sixth turtle Koda found all on her own! Koda will be continuing her training both at the Zoo, and in the field sites. The eastern box turtle is a locally rare and declining species here in Massachusetts due to habitat loss. Koda will be an invaluable team member as she will assist us in more quickly and accurately locating these turtles that we are working so hard to protect. She’s making great progress and we can’t wait to see her in action as she gets more and more confident!” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Learn more about Koda at ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #ZooNewEngland #GrassrootsWildlifeConservation #EasternBoxTurtle #BoxTurtle #TurtleConservation #DogsOfInstagram

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One of the dog’s trainers started by finding turtles to ensure that Koda was also able to find those live reptiles. Five turtles were initially found and Koda was able to locate all of them, including one that the trainer did not find.

“Koda will be an invaluable team member as she will assist us in more quickly and accurately locating these turtles that we are working so hard to protect,” said Christine, one of her trainers.

Koda enjoys being in Franklin Park but she also loves being at the zoo. You can find her at the zoo several days a week taking walks between her play sessions and training. You will be able to recognize her because she wears the bright ‘Turtle Dog’ vest.

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