Scent of a Whale

Tucker, a black Lab trained in tracking animal scat, has been deployed two of the past three summers to track down orca scat between the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island in Haro Strait, sniffing his quarry from the bow of a research boat for a University of Washington research team.

Local News | With dog’s help, clues to orcas’ decline found in whale scat | Seattle Times Newspaper


It seems slightly incongruous when a Labrador Retriever spends its summers tracking whales. Specifically, whale scat. Like traditional Chinese doctors, marine biologists can learn a lot from poop. Like the fact that there’s not enough of it.

Orcas in the Salish Sea are suffering from malnutrition. They’re starving to death. As a byproduct, they’re not pooping as much. That makes Tucker’s job a lot harder. The fact that Seattle Times reporters can’t use the word poop in print makes their job a lot less fun.

Who’s to Blame?

Besides the incongruity of a dog trained to hunt whales (and the image of the biologists collecting it, and the fact that whale poop floats), what most intrigued me about the Times article were the comments.

The first comment was by a former commercial fisherman who laid the blame squarely on the Indians. According to the comment, the Indians’ treaty rights enabled them to deplete the salmon fishery. As a result, the orca are starving.

Sadly, some things never change. The comments, and the prejudice, remain the same.

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