According to a report by the Associated Press, in over a 100 of Minnesota’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, zebra mussels are trying to take over. The invasive species clogs water pipes, cuts swimmers’ feet and disturbs the native environment. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has as many as 146 employees who inspect boats for the mussels each spring and summer, and this year they are adding three additional employees … sniffer dogs.
The dogs, two of which are Labrador Retrievers, have gone through a five week training program with their handlers to learn to detect the scent of zebra mussels.
Some zebra mussels slip past human agents’ best efforts to detect them, and thorough searches take time. Minnesota conservation agents have high hopes the dogs will locate zebra mussels more quickly and with a greater rate of success than human inspectors.
“The dogs are going to be able to inspect watercraft and vessels a lot faster than humans, and a lot of times more successfully because they’re using their nose instead of their eyes,” said Travis Muyres, a DNR officer who is working with the dogs.
If the dogs perform as well as expected this year, the DNR will possibly expand the program in future years.