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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Zoo Using Beagle to Sniff Out Polar Bear Pregnancy

CINCINNATI -- A 2-year-old Beagle is lending a helping nose to zoos in Cincinnati and around the country by sniffing out polar bears' pregnancies.

Traditional methods of pregnancy detection aren't effective with polar bears so that's where Elvis the dog comes in. He's a working dog from Kansas, who can tell whether a bear is with child just by smelling fecal samples.

This is the first time sniffer dogs have been used in biomedical research as it relates to any wildlife species, making this project truly one-of-a-kind, said Dr. Erin Curry, a Post-Doctoral Fellow studying polar bear reproduction at the Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW).

Curry says Elvis is identifying pregnancies in polar bears at a 97 percent accuracy rate, which is nearly as accurate as over-the-counter pregnancy tests.

The zoos are collaborating with professional dog trainer Matt Skogen, owner of Iron Heart High Performance Working Dogs.

Matt and his team at IronHeart have embraced this project completely, spending countless hours training Elvis for this exceptionally unique purpose," Curry said.

For CREWs study, more than 200 training samples from polar bears of known pregnancy status were chosen retrospectively and sent to Iron Heart, where Elvis is learning to identify the samples that came from pregnant females. 

Figuring out which component of the samples Elvis recognizes in the pregnant bears may allow us to work backwards and finally identify the polar bear pregnancy factor, once and for all, said Dr. Curry.  In addition, we are considering how sniffer dogs can continue to be trained and work in both the wild and captivity to help save some of the worlds most endangered animals.

 
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