Watch: Dogs travel the country to sniff out box turtles

John Rucker’s Boykin spaniels search for ornate box turtles at Illinois’ Nachusa Grasslands, followed by scientists and students. Credit: Cathy Bazzoni/Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo

Box turtles can be hard to spot in the wild, but not for a group of specially trained spaniels.

John Rucker travels across the country with his Boykin spaniels to sniff out box turtles, from their home in Montana to places like Missouri, where they helped find turtles to test them for ranavirus, and Illinois, where researchers are tracking ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata ornate) to gauge their population size.

“If we didn’t have John’s dogs, it would just be serendipitous to find an ornate box turtle,” Illinois state herpetologist Scott Ballard told the Washington Post. “They’re really hard to spot.”

Read more from the Washington Post. To see the dogs in action, watch the video from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch below.