Sunday, May 8, 2011

Turtle Sniffer

Smokey with tic trefoil
Our schnauzer Smokey loves to sniff around the roads and trails at Bull Mills unless he gets into a stand of tick trefoil as in the picture.  He finds all kind of wonderful scents that I will never understand.  Several times he has sniffed up a box turtle.  Saturday on our walk I hear an unusual hollow "thunk" and turned to find he had picked up a Three-toed Box Turtle and dropped it down on its carapace, saving it from a severe licking.  It turns out that this ability is a marketable skill.

Audubon magazine's Sniff Test describes a study of potentially threatened ornate box turtles in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.  To find them they used the sophisticated canine nose.  In ten days, five Boykin spaniels located 97 turtles, ordinarily a full summer's work for olfactory-challenged bipeds like us.

Dogs have at least 200 million scent receptors and in the right conditions can outperform humans seven times.  "Across the country, canines are aiding researchers, from locating grizzly bear scat in Montana to sniffing out invasive wolf snails in Oahu, Hawaii."

If I had just listened closely to Smokey, he could have told me that.  I'll be doggoned!

An interesting blog on box turtle reproduction is at


  1. So that's what those little seeds are.

  2. Our lab can find turtles in the pond by feeling with his front feet, then diving down and picking it off the bottom. Our lab/jack russell mix can sniff moles under the ground and dig them up and catch them. Amazing to watch!