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Twenty-seven miles beyond the Golden Gate, the craggy Farallon Islands have been home to fur-seal hunters from Russia, a gold-rush-era egg business, and even a nuclear waste dump. Today they’re home to 250,000 sea birds, not to mention seals, sea lions, whales, and sharks. What makes these stark-looking islands so attractive to wildlife?
What does a ringed seal’s breathing hole look like and how do you find one on a vast sheet of sea ice? Dr. Brendan Kelly uses the canine skills of Cooper, a Black Labrador he trained to chase the scent of ringed seals and point to their holes. Passionate about wildlife and climate change, Melanie Duchin has loaned her dog to work with Brendan for the past 5 years. Watch Dr. Brendan Kelly, Micaela Ponce, Kevin Bakker and Dan Carlson as they measure and tag a female ringed seal on the frozen Chukchi Sea. Follow them as they return the seal by snowmobile to her breathing hole in the Elson Lagoon - and get a little seal slap in the process. Brendan Kelly learned from Inuit hunters how to train Labrador retrievers to find ringed seals. This allows Brendan and his colleagues to set up live-capture nets to keep the seals from diving after they come up for air. The seals are tagged with satellite transponders so they can be tracked to learn about their breeding grounds and migration habits.