Scent-sniffing dogs can discriminate between native Eurasian and invasive North American beavers.
The invasion of a species can cause population reduction or extinction of a similar native species due to replacement competition. There is a potential risk that the native Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) may eventually be competitively excluded by the invasive North American beaver (C. canadensis) from areas where they overlap in Eurasia. Yet currently available methods of census and population estimates are costly and time-consuming. In a laboratory environment, we investigated the potential of using dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) as a conservation tool to determine whether the Eurasian or the North American beaver is present in a specific beaver colony. We hypothesized that dogs can discriminate between the two beaver species, via the odorant signal of castoreum from males and females, in two floor platform experiments. We show that dogs detect scent differences between the two species, both from dead beaver samples and from scent marks collected in the field. Our results suggest that dogs can be used as an "animal biosensor" to discriminate olfactory signals of beaver species, however more tests are needed. Next step should be to test if dogs discern between beaver species in the field under a range of weather conditions and habitat types and use beaver samples collected from areas where the two species share the same habitat. So far, our results show that dogs can be used as a promising tool in the future to promote conservation of the native beaver species and eradication of the invasive one. We therefore conclude that dogs may be an efficient non-invasive tool to help conservationist to manage invasive species in Europe, and advocate for European wildlife agencies to invest in this new tool.