By Jessica Micallef
Hanging Rock has become the latest hangout for dogs.
Four-legged friends were used by La Trobe University Bendigo researchers to find evidence of greater gliders – small gliding marsupials – at the rock in an effort to better protect vulnerable species in the area.
University PhD researcher Nick Rutter said this was the first time the dogs had been involved in a project like this and were finding endangered animals through scents.
Mr Rutter said the dogs, owned by community volunteers, underwent extensive training over the past year and a half to recognise the scent of the marsupials’ faeces or scats.
“In the last five weeks, they were trained to look for greater gliders through their scent,” Mr Rutter said.
“This was done through positive reinforcement.
“The dog gets a reward for sniffing out the scent … it was a fun game for the dogs.”
Mr Rutter said it took the dogs a certain level of obedience to participate in the project.
“The dogs needed to be safe around other animals and needed to work well with the handler,” Mr Rutter said.
He said the dogs will search Wombat State Forest throughout December and into next year in the hope of finding evidence of gliders.
Mr Rutter said the effort put in from professional trainers was outstanding.