Local researchers using dogs to help locate box turtles

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Searching for box turtles is sort of like looking for a needle in a haystack. But in Greensboro, high school day campers from the Greensboro Science Center and researchers from University  of North Carolina - Greensboro (UNCG) are relying on Boykin Spaniels to sniff out box turtles.

"I actually didn’t know they use dogs to find turtles," says day camper Rebekah Wofford. "I thought we would have to trek through the woods and look at the ground the whole time. It’s a lot easier.”

Martha Regester, Greensboro Science Center director of education, says the field work gives the 12 high schoolers a chance to study box turtles, snakes and other reptiles outside of the classroom.

"It's neat for kids to see the possibilities in field research as a career, an occupation here is really just fun,” Regester said.

For UNCG, they will take the box turtle's information such as size, weight and age, and include it in an ongoing statewide box turtle study called the Box Turtle Connection.

"It helps get better awareness of what habitat they have," says graduate student Kandice Robinson. "This turtle seems to like the forest edges so he will stay between the meadow and the pool here.”

Ashely LaVere, assistant director of the Box Turtle Connection, says box turtles are not endangered. But expanding cities are taking over the woods and fields where box turtles like to live.

"They have different threats like habitat loss and getting hit by cars while crossing the road. So we do what to watch for them and make sure their population is in good standing,” LaVere said.

And when you see a turtle crossing the road, Regester would like for us to safely help it across.

"Box turtles are homebodies. You think you are doing them a favor by picking them up in the middle of the road. Just put them on the other side. Do not take them five miles away to a park.”

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