Conservation Canines Are An Asset to Science

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At one search site, “dogs found 71 bat fatalities in 55 searches compared to 1 bat found by humans in 69 searches,” the study reports. (Courtesy of Rogue Detection Teams via USGS)

Dogs Sniff Out Answers to Bat and Bird Fatalities Near Wind Turbines

by David Kindy/Smithsonianmag.com

Wind turbines spell trouble for flying critters. Over time, these clean energy behemoths are being built even larger to generate more power, but what happens to wildlife when blades get broader and towers get taller? It turns out, size really doesn’t matter when it comes to wind turbines. A recent study shows that newer, bigger systems are no more dangerous for bats and birds than older, smaller units.

To collect data for this investigation, scientists used conservation dogs. The four-legged researchers were able to locate downed birds and bats at a wind turbine facility in California that included both newer and older systems for comparative purposes, reports Josh Saul in Bloomberg Green.

The study, led by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), determined wildlife mortality rates remained the same per unit of energy produced. That is, as long as the electric output was constant, there was no difference between “smaller, lower capacity, closely spaced turbines with larger, higher capacity ones, more widely spaced,” the scientists write in the paper, published in March 2021 in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

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