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Help us save wildlife and
the habitats upon which they depend
using our specially trained detection dogs:
Dr. Jane Goodall takes a moment to visit with Pepin and Megan Parker, WDC Executive Director, at the Wildlife
Conservation Network's Annual Expo in San Francisco, California.
Dear Friends of Working Dogs for Conservation,
We're knee-deep in winter here in Montana, shoveling our way out of two feet of
snow. While the snow was flying here, we headed off to warmer climes to attend this
year's Wildlife Conservation Network events in the San Francisco Bay area. We're
thankful to Charlie Knowles and the WCN staff for generously welcoming us to this
year's events where we had the opportunity to meet Dr. Jane Goodall, learn from and
share ideas with conservationists from around the world, present our work to a number
of people who had not yet heard of WDC and meet-up with friends made at last year's
event. At the same time, work was underway in the northern Cascade mountains in
Washington to locate the sign of critical carnivore species potentially impacted by roads
in that area. More projects are still underway and we are busy filling our 2010 project
We want to give a big thanks to all of you for keeping this exciting work moving
All the Best,
Note from the Field
WDC staffer Kathryn Socie heads into the "Great Burn" with Orbee, the newest addition to the
"Here's our starting point and we'll be heading that way," says Aimee Hurt, WDC co-founder,
pointing up at a steep hillside, dense with vegetation. We're working in the Great Burn, a Dr. Goodall gets a kiss from Pepin
270,000 acre road-less area that sprawls across the Bitterroot Mountains on the border
between Idaho and Montana and is part of the largest block of public lands in the United States
located in the heart of the "Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative." The Great Burn is Support our dogs and their work
crucial habitat for a variety of species of conservation concern, potentially serving as a vital
wildlife corridor and linkage zone that is seriously threatened by un-managed recreational use.
We're here looking for sign of a few of these critical species and are about to step into the thick
(literally) of the Burn, heading up, straight up, in search of scat: grizzly bear, wolf, lynx,
wolverine and fisher.
What really made this field stint special for me was that it was my first working as a dog-handler
team with Orbee, WDC's most recent canine addition rescued last January from a shelter in
Dillon, Montana. After months of preparation, training and working with him almost daily, Orbee
has shown great potential and demonstrates a big, big love for his job. Beyond the work, he
has lived with me and my two couch-surfing dogs where he quickly became a much-loved
member of the family. We go everywhere and do everything together, heading out on hikes,
camping trips, running errands around town. My dogs are an integral part of my life and Orbee
has been welcomed into the fold.
"Let's go to work" I call out and Orbee starts up the hill wanting to approach it with his usual
speed, but the downed, wet cedars and dense alder make the going slow, very slow. He
seems confused about it, wondering why we were bothering trying to walk through all this thick
stuff when he could be sprinting down the trail with ease and sprinting is his preferred mode of
travel. He tentatively searches a very small area in front of me, looking up at me frequently,
questioning himself (and likely my sanity) unsure of how or even if he is supposed to be
working in these conditions. We decided to set out a training scat, a "gimme," for him to find
and to see if he would have an "a-ha" moment. It worked. His confidence kicked in and
suddenly the game was on, downfall and all. He was off, ranging wide, running ahead, doing a
sweep of the area, searching beautifully.
The rewards of working in such a vast, dense ecosystem are slim to none some days. Some
Photo Credit: Pam Voth
areas we search just don't have scats, which can be daunting for the dogs. It ends up being a
lot of hard work for very little reward. The "gimme" scats are all we can do to boost morale and
keep the dogs engaged in the search. We can't rescue, train and go to work saving
wildlife and the habitats upon which species
Throughout the day we cross creek after creek, hurl ourselves over downed trees and slog depend with dogs, like Orbee, without your help.
through never-ending patches of rain-soaked alder, emerging completely drenched, until we
reach our finishing point, the road back to camp. Your tax-deductible donation helps us provide the
I lean over and pop off Orbee's vest, his cue that it's 'quitin' time.' In response, he sprints down
best care and home life for our dogs while also
the trail, grabs the first stick in sight, tosses it in the air and begins wildly playing like we had providing the best service to our conservation
just gone on a leisurely stroll through the park and he was now ready for some real action. partners.
His tireless energy and enthusiasm not only make this shelter dog a good working dog, but With a team of 8 dogs and multiple new projects
ridiculously entertaining in the field and at home.
per year, dog care and project preparation costs
are a big part of what individual donations help us
Project Update: Investigating Habitat Connectivity and Identifying cover.
WDC went to work on the Western Transportation Institute's (WTI) "Carnivore Connectivity Maintaining each dog: $3,250/year
Project," evaluating habitat connectivity for carnivores in Washington's Cascade mountains
Training in preparation for the field: $5,000/project
High quality dog food sponsorship
Field gear sponsorship for trainer/handlers
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WDC Associate Director, Aimee Hurt, on the job with Wicket in
North Cascades National Park
Roads are great for easy access to national parks and natural areas, but one of their major
drawbacks is the potential to create habitat "fracture zones" for wildlife. With vehicle mortality
and disruption of natural patterns of movement increasingly exacerbated by climate change, it
has become critical that we identify where these fracture zones occur so that efforts to reduce
road-wildlife conflicts can be focused on these crucial areas.
Our dog-handler teams went to work with the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) to help
researchers better understand where species travel as they navigate their way through North
Cascades National park and across the highway. We did 20 surveys along a stretch of Highway
20 that runs from Marblemount to Mazama, looking for scat from lynx, cougar, wolf, black bear,
wolverine, fisher, and grizzly bears. Since carnivores are notoriously difficult to study given
their large area requirements, low densities, and characteristically elusive behavior, dogs were
the perfect tool to help WTI.
In addition, because fisher are thought to be extirpated form the park and reports of grizzly
bears have yet to be confirmed, our dogs may be able to tell researchers if these species are
indeed present in the park.
Wicket heading to the "office" by boat
Working Dogs for Conservation
52 Eustis Rd
Three Forks, MT 59752