When Kayla Fratt received a delivery of Frozen Bat carcasses in the mail in March, she began preparing for her summer employment. The bats, in fact, were for her border collies, Barley and Niffler, and it is their summer job as well. They needed to learn the scent of a dead bat because they’d be spending three months searching for bats killed by whirling turbines on wind farms.
Fratt, who worked as a dog trainer before going into the bat-detection company, started by burying the bodies about her living room to teach them. The dogs quickly progressed to searching for dead bats in the yard and eventually parks. When Fratt left the house with Barley or Niffler, she began carrying Frozen Bat carcasses with her in case they found themselves with free time to practise in a new area.
They all reported for service at a wind farm in the Midwest earlier this month. When we chatted last week, Fratt informed me that their orientation would begin the following day. “We struck the ground running,” she added. The wind industry’s increasing conservation-detection canines, Barley and Niffler, are just two of many.
Understanding the impact of wind turbines on animals is more critical than ever as they become increasingly common around the country. Scientists initially concentrated on the threat that turbines caused to eagles and other raptors, but it turns out that large bird carcasses were just the easiest for humans to detect. Smallwood told me that he was first sceptical about using dogs to track turbine deaths, but the statistics completely changed his mind.In one study, canines discovered 96 percent of dead bats, whereas humans only discovered 6%. The canine searchers discovered young bats weighing as little as one gramme. Other dog handlers gave me images of bats—or, more accurately, bat fragments—that their dogs had discovered: a piece of wing, a dime-sized jawbone.