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The Allison Woods Turtle Dogs!

A "one-of-a-kind" nationally recognized, highly sought after program that uses specially trained dogs to aid in research, field studies, and educational programs concerning turtles.

The dogs have been featured on Animal Planet Dogs 101, PBS, UNC-TV, along with various magazine and newspaper articles.

Students interested in field research?

Want the Turtle Dogs to visit your school or organization?

Does your school want to have a field trip at Allison Woods OLC?

How the Turtle Dogs began....

Fourteen years ago, a retired biology teach was in the forest with his dogs and they noticed that he was picking up box turtles admiring them. Evidently the dogs took heed...and his dog Buster brought him a turtle. He praised the dog and returned the turtle back into the woods, but the dog soon returned with another and another. In John's words, "another dog wired up a little differently rewrote the history of turtle research in America." Before the Turtle Dogs, researchers found it nearly impossible to obtain a solid read on turtle population numbers - particularly in the forest. Our dogs continue the line of the original Turtle Dogs...Buster and Sparky...and carry the same affection for finding turtles. We breed our dogs and train them specifically to locate turtles of all types. Although John likes to travel the States working with government agencies and colleges on research and relocating ornate and painted turtles which are endangered, we use ours to teach children about conservation and preservation.

Several years ago, the dogs were brought to our site to conduct a program in conjunction with UNC Greensboro's HERPS Project. The dogs sniffed out the turtles, brought them to us as the researchers weighed, marked and logged data on each turtle located and then they were released back to the spot where they were found.

During their visit here, John (and his pack) fell in love with the many untouched areas and felt they were ideal for box turtle educational research. After several months of discussion, it was decided that he would continue with research and study across the United States with part of his "A" and "B" team dogs and that the Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center would pick up the educational aspect along with some of the overflow research studies with the remaining "A" and "B" team dogs, and of course the puppies...whose team is yet to be determined! However, we all have our suspicions what they will be!

Needless to say...we were thrilled! So now we have the new generation in the Turtle Dog line. Possum, Kizzie, Lazarus & Scamper (Laz and Scamp are now on the road with John and his team traveling the United States). Veteran dogs, Snapper and Watcher helped us to train the puppies and are available with the trainers for educational programs and research projects.

On a typical day, they may find as many as 25 turtles. By contrast, students with some projects may do well to only locate all summer.

Using specially trained dogs and a specialty developed program, this program will aid in education and research of the States Reptile of North Carolina, the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrepene Carolina). Box turtles can be found in every county of North Carolina, but with the ever increasing fragmentation of habitat, as well as the loss of it, and the pet trade, Box Turtles may not be easily found.

On a field trip where this is the only program offered, student researchers will collect turtles and record the coordinates with GPS, along with weather conditions, temperatures, microhabitat, and activity along with much more data necessary to follow the turtle. Once all information is gathered and recorded, each turtle is given a unique number using the notch method. This onsite/recapture technique enables researchers to determine individual growth and development as well as movement patterns.

Participating students gain experience on fundamental aspects of field research - such as field technicians, project leaders, presenters at scientific meetings and some authors for scientific journals.

With continued conservation education and the on-going collection of data from Box-Turtle projects, hopefully every county will continue to posses this wonderful descendent of the prehistoric age. The program will include improved strategies for working together in order to better understand Box Turtles, and hopefully make wiser decisions about how we interact with each other and the natural world.

On days when the field trips are time sensitive, the program is modified to meet the time restraints and age groups.

The adult Allison Woods OLC Turtle Dogs (including the traveling group that are "on the road" with their handlers looking for ornate, painted and other endangered turtle species) have successfully worked for the following companies and individuals for box turtle surveys and/or research:

Oxbow Associates - Acton, Massachusetts

Clinch River Environmental Studies (CRESO) - Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Pawtuxet Wildlife Research Refuge - Maryland

Camp Chestnut Ridge Nature Camp - Efland, NC

Oglebay's Good Zoo - Wheeling, West Virginia

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge - Northwest Illinois (ornate box turtle research and surveys on 17 remnant tall grass prarie sites for the US Fish and Wildlife Service).

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation - South Dakota - (ornate box turtle research in mixed grass praries for Ogala Lakota College).

Earthshine Mountain Lodge - Lake Toxaway, North Carolina

The adult Allison Woods OLC Turtle Dogs (including the traveling group that are "on the road" with their handlers have worked on the following sites for turtle rescue:

2010 - Future corridor of I-69 between Indianapolis and Evansville, Indiana. They rescued 61 box turtles from a 9.2 mile stretch of he LOD - a 100 yard wide swath where the highway was to be constructed.

2001-2010 - Intercounty Connector (ICC) - Only, Maryland - Hundreds of box turtles were caught by the turtle dogs and moved to safety from the future six lane highway right-of-way.

2007 - Earthshine Mountain Lodge - Lake Toxaway, NC - a study turtle escaped from a temporary holding enclosure and the Turtle Dogs located it in less than one hour.


The Turtle dogs have been featured at the following locations:

Science & Herpetology Camps

Camp Chestnut Ridge- Efland, NC

Turtle Day - High Point, NC

Oak Ridge Science Club - Oak RIdge, Tennessee

The Schiele Museum - Gastonia, NC

NC Arboretum, Asheville, NC

STEAM Day, Mitchell Community College, Statesville, NC

Arbor Day, Statesville, NC

Various libraries, meeting sites, retreats, etc.


Washington Christian Academy - Olney, Maryland

Bethany Charter School - Bethany, NC

Centennial Elementary School - Raleigh, NC

As well as the many schools from across North Carolina that have attended our onsite programs at the Outdoor Learning Center.

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