Dog sniffs out threatened salamander

Conservation Canines
A special scent searching dog is being used to save as many salamanders before crews begin road work.

RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) – The state wants to rip up part of a New Mexico road, but it’s run into a problem. There are a lot of salamanders that call the area home. Now, officials have enlisted a special tool to sniff them out, so they can save the threatened amphibian.

Ten-year-old Sampson is a specially trained scent detection dog from Washington who is part of a group called the Conservation Canines. He’s in New Mexico sniffing out the rare Sacramento Salamander.

“No other salamander exactly like it is in any other place,” said Nature Conservancy Forest Conservation Program Director Anne Bradley.

The Sacramento Salamander is a threatened species and is only found in the Land of Enchantment. That’s why officials are doing everything they can to protect the species while they start road work near Ruidoso’s Ski Apache.

The Department of Transportation is planning on widening and adding guard rails to three of the most dangerous road curves on the way to the ski basin next spring. They say they’ve spotted salamanders along the road hiding under rocks and living in the soil.

“If we have the opportunity to keep these little guys from getting bulldozed up we think that’s really great,” said Bradley.

Wednesday, Sampson along with New Mexico Game and Fish, U.S. Official Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, biologists and Nature Conservancy officials searched for the amphibians in those soon-to-be construction areas.

In the first hour, Sampson found almost a dozen salamanders.

“We train the dogs to find wildlife species in the field and their reward is to play ball,” said Sampson’s handler Julianne Ubigau.

The group Conservation Canines says dogs likes Sampson are more reliable than technology.

This isn’t the first time Conservation Canines has been in New Mexico, the past two summers the dogs tracked the rare Jemez Salamanders around the state.

All the salamanders Sampson and the department find will be relocated to another part of the mountain. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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