NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Our ecosystem is delicate. One move or one change can create a domino effect impacting all the plants and animals in the area. Now, one organization’s mission is to save our land with the help of conservation dogs.

Working Dogs for Conservation is based in Montana, but uses their dogs to conserve ecosystems in the Dakotas and around the world. Right now, the group has dogs looking for black-footed ferrets. The dogs sniff out their scat, and the human companions count the ferret populations to see if the numbers are going up or down.

“Black-footed ferrets are so important because they’re very conservation-dependent because of diseases that are affecting them,” said K9 field specialist for Working Dogs for Conservation Michele Lovara, “And if they don’t get captured and given vaccines for plague or other diseases, they will die.”

Sometimes, for a certain ecosystem to survive, you need to know if there are enough animals alive and well in the food chain — and this is something that the tracking skills of our canine companions can really help out with. According to the group, conservation detection dogs can be up to 40 times more efficient than human searchers at developing population and habitat data. They can cover large areas and rough terrain, detect species and scents hidden in deep vegetation, and do it with virtually limitless eagerness and energy.

“There’s a lot of avenues that dogs haven’t been used yet that they could potentially be a really good resource for,” said Lovara. “I think we’re seeing that now more with disease work. It’s something that people have used dogs for cancer and various things in humans, but not animals.”

The group says a dog’s nose is designed to smell continuously — not just on the inhale as we do. They can determine which nostril an odor arrived in first, which helps them locate a scent in any area. For years, scientists have been trying to develop an instrument that is as sensitive as a dog’s nose, but nothing has beat our 4-legged friends.