Auburn University in Auburn Alabama has a program called EcoDogs. EcoDogs is a project designed to train dogs to find plant and animal species or their signs to benefit ecological research, management or conservation.
A few years ago the Army Corp of Engineers approached Auburn University to see if dogs could be trained to seek out Burmese pythons, a species of snake native to Southeast Asia, that has invaded the Florida Everglades. The pythons were part of the exotic animal trade in the U.S. They became a threat to the environment when released by owners to the wild or escaping their cages , disrupting the natural life cycle.
It has been discovered that the Burmese Python has what is being called a built-in compass which allows them to find their way home even over long distances. Those owners who discard these snakes may think twice knowing they may find their way back.
Using Labrador Retrievers, with their strong sense of smell and their eagerness to please their humans, the dogs were trained to pick up the snake’s scent. The dogs, Jake and Ivy, were imprinted with the odor of the snakes when it was brought back from Florida.
Jake and Ivy were trained to stop and crouch when finding a python, never getting closer than 15 feet away. Pythons curl up and hide when discovered, so there was minimal danger to the dogs.
Between them, Jake and Ivy found 19 pythons, one filled with eggs. Their accuracy was much higher than that of the human hunters.
Jake is still working at Auburn University as a detection dog. Ivy has retired and been adopted.