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Rescue dogs sniff for salamanders to save rare species and help people


Photo courtesy of Mark L. Watson New Mexico Dept. of
Game and Fish.

Aldo Leopold seated on rimrock above the Rio Gavilan in northern Mexico.

Meet Sampson, a Labrador rescued from the Seattle Humane
Society who climbed the Jemez Mountains, clambering over
rocks to track rare salamanders.

Posted by: Bruce Hill, Santa Fe National Forest and Ellita Willis, Office of Communication, US Forest Service

Shelter dogs that are often rejected are getting a new lease on life. Plus they’re helping wildlife and people!  These conservation canines climbed the Jemez Mountains, clambering over rocks, running from smell to smell, to track where rare Jemez salamanders, a species found nowhere else in the world, are living in New Mexico.

This summer, the Santa Fe National Forest, along with many partners collaborated to bring two trained canines to the forest to locate the salamanders. The dogs were deployed to the Jemez Mountains during a monsoon as salamanders can be found more easily during the rainy season. The furry tracking specialists’ service is critical to the future of Jemez salamanders and our forests. The warmer, drier climate in New Mexico has impacted the habitat, threatening their survival.

Because salamanders are succumbing to warmer temperatures and drought conditions, their population has drastically declined. Between the two dogs, and with human assistance, only seven of the salamanders were found during the latest search effort.  By mapping the salamanders, scientists will be able to create a land management plan that will help salamanders, as well as the forests we all depend on for clean water supplies and recreation. The work includes restoring the forest, woodlands and streams.

Photo courtesy of Center for Conservation

Aldo Leopold seated on rimrock above the Rio Gavilan in northern Mexico.

Meet Frehley, a Border Collie rescued from the
Seattle Animal Shelter who climbed the Jemez


Project partners plan to bring the dogs back in the spring or summer of 2013.  The partnering agencies involved in the effort include: Santa Fe National Forest, The Nature Conservancy, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Arizona, the Pueblo of Jemez, New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute and the Valles Caldera Trust in the Jemez Mountains. 


US Forest Service
Last modified March 29, 2013

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