Ant-sniffing Dog Aids Conservation on Santa Cruz Island

Conservationists deploy a canine tracker to confirm the removal of invasive Argentine Ants on Santa Cruz and San Clemente Islands.

For centuries people have used dogs for work, from herding sheep to sniffing for drugs or explosives. Today, conservationists are deploying canines’ excellent tracking skills to find invasive species. Conservation dogs have been used to sniff out rats, rabbits, and mice on islands around the world, but now one yellow lab has become an expert at sniffing for ants. On Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of California, The Nature Conservancy is using an ant-sniffing dog to find invasive Argentine Ants.


Dogs are deployed around the world to find invasive species on islands. This dog has been trained to find Invasive Giant African Snails in the Galápagos. Credit: Rebecca Ross, Dogs for Conservation

Tobias the ant-sniffing dog has been working for three months to find any remnant populations of the invasive ant species. So far, the effort has not turned up any nests of the species, which is a good sign for the conservation effort that has taken nine years.


Finn the detection dog aided in confirming the successful removal of rabbits from Choros Island, Chile. Credit: Maddy Pott/Island Conservation

Argentine Ants are not native to the California Channel islands; they displace native species. Argentine Ants are known for the supercolonies they form, which make them difficult to eradicate. Christina Boser of The Nature Conservancy commented:

Argentine Ants are hitchhikers. They tend to hitchhike on materials that humans bring around the world. They swarm and certainly do bite.

The effort to remove the ants has been a long process but Tobias has confirmed the island to be ant free after searching approximately 10,000 acres for any sign that of the species. Next, Tobias is off to San Clemente Island to sniff for any signs of invasive Argentine Ants there, and conservationists are hoping for the same positive results.

Featured Photo: North Bluff Trail on Santa Cruz Island, California. Credit: Momo Go
California Islands

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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