National Bats and Wind Turbine Project – Bat Detection Dogs
Since August 2010, at the request of Dr Fiona Mathews, Senior Lecturer in Mammalian Biology & Programme Director for BSc. in Biology and Animal Behaviour at University of Exeter and DEFRA (Dept for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) I have trained five Bat Detection Dogs and handlers to detect dead Bats at Wind Turbine sites.
The dogs, four Labradors and one Springer Spaniel, are trained to search large areas of differing terrains and freeze on the scent of a dead Bat. The dogs are trained to locate all species (16) of British Bat and can work effectively either on or off a long line. The Bats can then be recovered by trained handlers for analysis.
A brief video of the dogs in training can be seen below.
Four of the dogs completed their first summer deployment in 2011 with their new handlers at numerous UK turbine sites. In the field trials (quality assurance tests) they obtained over 80% success and operationally they recovered numerous Bats.
By utilizing the nasal capabilities of the dog in this respect, researchers can accurately determine the mortality rate of the species at any given site. This will assist in conservation of the species and assist in the construction and use of future turbine sites.
In addition to the Bat Project, Search Dogs UK has also trained dogs to locate urban hedgehogs and dormice. These dogs have already proved their worth in the field and are actively assisting researchers in gaining a better knowledge of the species.
Search Dogs UK has also been instrumental in devising the Standard for such dogs and Operational Protocols for working such dogs in the field.
It should be noted that Bats are a Protected Species in the UK and a licence is required for anyone handling or possessing Bats either alive or dead.