Letter to the editor: Sniffers serve us well | SummitDaily.com

Letter to the editor: Sniffers serve us well

Rose Pray

In the fall 2021 Audubon magazine, Annie Roth wrote a story called “The New Bird Dogs.” She observes that with “300 million scent receptors in its nose compared with your 5 million, and a brain with 40 times more area for analyzing odors, your dog has almost unfathomable olfactory prowess.”

Roth tells us several ways that prowess is benefiting us. In the Falklands, dogs have sniffed out and eliminated feral rats that threatened the survival of nesting seabirds. In Hawaii, dogs sniff out carcasses of birds killed by avian botulism so they can be removed, slowing the spread of the malady. Bats and small birds are killed by colliding with wind turbines. Humans could locate just 6% of dead bats and 30% of dead birds; dogs found 96% of dead bats and 90% of dead birds. This information helps plan a means of avoiding such high mortality.

Wolves, the ancestors of all our dogs, have all of the olfactory acuity their descendants do, and more. Fifty years ago, premier wolf biologist L. David Mech wrote that a “wolf’s sense of smell is thousands of times stronger than a human’s and able to detect urine several weeks old.” Google “olfaction in dogs” and you will find thousands of references to the physiology of dog (and wolf) odor sensing and analyzing organs.

As Colorado Parks and Wildlife plans to restore wolves to the state, they will do well to consider the capacity of wolves to detect, select and remove deer, elk and moose that are infected with chronic wasting disease from the populations.

It’s all the more reason to welcome the gray wolf back to Colorado, part of its historic range, and your children and grandchildren will once again hear “The Call of the Wild.”

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