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Dogs Trained To Sniff Out Invasive Species Of Mussels In Montana

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Zebra and quagga mussels, the best known Great Lakes invaders, reduce the ability of native mussel species to move, feed and breed.

Authorities have already come up with several means to deal with these invasive mussel species that have been spreading in bodies of water across the U.S.

Officials have provided decontamination services to boat owners and resorted to using special chemicals such as liquid potash to eliminate infestation of these invasive species in bodies of water.

Now, Montana is trying a new strategy to deal with these pests. The state has trained dogs to pick out the scent of the zebra and quagga mussels to identify them before they can infest a new area.

Mussel-Sniffing Dogs

Just like their counterparts that have been trained to sniff out bombs, the dogs have been trained to use their sense of smell to detect adult mussels. Once they smell these mussels, the dogs bark to inform their trainer of the presence of the invasive species on the hull of the ship.

The dogs are deployed to boat-inspection areas, where they ensure any ship that enters the domain does not carry the unwanted creatures.

After scientists discovered mussel larvae in a reservoir in Montana, three dog teams were sent to other lakes in the state to assess the shoreline and see if any more of these invasive species managed to slip into the area.

The dogs would jump into the boats with their handlers to be transported to distant shores, where they would sniff out the invasive species of mussels under the rocks and along shorelines.

"These dogs are accurate and efficient at boats," said Cindy Sawchuk, whose dog named Hilo helps search for the invasive mussels at Lake Tiber in Montana. "This is like a new application of that skill."

Detecting the invasive species can be challenging because of their small size. The larvae, for instance, are microscopic but the dogs are able to find the mussels even if these are still as small as a seed.

Threats Posed By Invasive Mussels

Invasive species pose threat to biodiversity because they are capable of causing extinction to native animals and plants as they compete with native organisms for limited resources.

Invasive species also cause economic harm. The zebra and quagga mussels, for instance, have already cost the country billions of dollars in attempts to locate and eliminate them over the past three decades.

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