Zoos around the US will soon find out whether a beagle named Elvis can let them know when their polar bears are pregnant.
The two-year-old has been trained by a handler who has taught dogs to sniff out everything from explosives to bed bugs. A Cincinnati Zoo animal conservation scientist had the idea after reading about studies on using dogs to detect cancer.
Elvis is investigating faecal samples of 22 female bears from 14 zoos. When he is done, the zoos will be informed of the result.
There are certain steps that should be taken by zoo keepers should one of these endangered bears be pregnant. For example the bear should be kept away from males, given cushions and monitored around the clock (similar enough to the human gestation period) so zookeepers can be ready to assist.
Unfortunately it is difficult to detect whether a polar bear is pregnant or not given their size.
We will follow this up when we find out if Elvis can predict the pitter-patter of tiny paws later this year.