Weed-sniffing dogs join the fight against invasive species
There aren’t a lot of career options for dogs. Basically they’ve been limited to law enforcement, imperial transport, and designated hitter — until now. A crack team of canines is on the hunt for invasive species.
The dogs, which are equipped with GPS units because we live in the future, search the countryside looking for invasive weeds, snails, and, for the lucky dogs, scat. Under the auspices of the Montana nonprofit Working Dogs for Conservation, it’s a career that combines two of a dog’s favorite things: wandering about and smelling poop.
Jodi Helmer at Takepart has the rest of the tail (ahem):
Seamus was trained to sniff out Dyer’s woad, a noxious weed that takes over rangeland, choking out native plants that are an important source of food and habitat for wildlife.
The dog often works off-leash, crisscrossing quadrants of the park until he picks up the scent of Dyer’s woad. When he stops, the GPS in his bright orange doggy backpack marks the location of the invasive weed. [His handler, Aimee] Hurt also makes note of the coordinates and will return to spray the plant. …
A 2010 study published in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management found that dogs sniffed out twice the number of invasive plants that humans could detect with their eyes.
The dogs are a great tool in the fight against non-natives, but there are limitations to their work. So far, they are only on the trail of terrestrial invasives, so lionfish and zebra muscles are safe for the moment. But with the right training, who knows?