Beagle To Determine Whether Polar Bear Is Pregnant

Elvis sniffing a sample.

Whether or not a polar bear is pregnant lies in the paws of a beagle.

Zookeepers at the Denver Zoo believe 11-year-old Cranbeary is pregnant, but can't tell for certain. Since traditional methods such as ultrasounds cannot effectively detect a polar bear pregnancy, the zoo is turning to alternatives.

That's where Elvis comes in.

Experts say that sniffer dogs can detect a polar bear's pregnancy through the animal's feces. When a polar bear is pregnant, the feces contain a protein that would otherwise not be present.

Samples of Cranbeary's feces have been sent to the Cincinnati Zoo, where Elvis the beagle is hard at work trying to sniff out the bear's pregnancy.

Using squeaky toys and food as motivation, Elvis has undergone training for a year to learn how to detect the pregnancy protein. Now 14 zoos, including the Denver Zoo, are using the 2-year-old pup for the real thing.

If Elvis detects the protein in the sample, he'll let the researchers know by sitting on top of the container the sample is in. His trainers say he has an accuracy rate of 97 percent.

Is Cranbeary going to be a mama bear? The Denver Zoo should know the answer in about two weeks.