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Dogs help save endangered killer whales

Killer whales that live in Puget Sound, Washington, are not doing well, and scientists are now using dogs to determine why the species is not recovering, National Public Radio reports.

The whales were placed on the endangered species list in 2005, but have not made much of a comeback despite their listing. Researchers in Puget Sound hypothesize that lack of food, boat traffic and pollution may be to blame, but have decided to examine their feces to save the species.

That is where dogs are playing a role. Sam Wasser, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, is using an 8-year-old black Lab mix, Tucker, as the "scat-detection dog," he told the news outlet.

Thanks to Tucker's keen sense of smell, Wasser and other researchers are able to analyze this "treasure trove of information" that is generally quite hard to come by.

So far, Wasser and his team have noticed that killer whales have the highest concentrations of toxic substances like pesticides and flame retardants of any other creature on the planet, which opens up a whole new path of research that may determine what is preventing the endangered animals from recovering.

According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, killer whales are found in all oceans, and are able to adapt to almost any conditions. 
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