VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — On Wednesday, dogs roamed Forest Glen Preserve to look for turtles.

The University of Illinois uses the dogs to find and collect data on the shelled creatures.

John Rucker realized the potential his dogs had when he was a high school teacher.

“I had a couple of Boykin Spaniels that sort of spontaneously started bringing me box turtles,” Rucker said.

Now, he has turned it into a career.

“Within a few years, I was having so much fun doing turtle dog work, I quit teaching and I’ve been doing this,” he said.

You might be asking why they use dogs instead of just trekking through the forest to find them.

“Humans… we’re good at a lot of things but finding turtles is not necessarily one of them,” said Dr. Matt Allender, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Illinois’ Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. “It takes about four hours to find one turtle if a human is out searching. Whereas the dog team that we have will find about 2.5 turtles per hour, per dog.”

Once they gather all the turtles, they get to work.

“A lot of the turtles today we found in the past,” Allender said. “So we can compare their health from the last time was them to make sure they’re healthy and that all of their characteristics are supporting a healthy environment.”

Allender said the health of a turtle can tell a lot about the environment around it.

“Some of these turtles only live in about a five-acre area their entire life,” Allender said. “So they are really representative of the health of the exact environment that they come from and that we find them, and this is the environment that feeds all of our societal needs and natural resources here in central Illinois.”

They caught 19 turtles at the preserve on Wednesday. After the group is done gathering all the information, they will put the turtles back near where they found them.