Boaters crossing the border into the Canadian province of Alberta soon will be greeted by dogs trained to sniff out invasive mussels.
The provincial legislature voted to add mandatory inspections to the Alberta Fisheries Act, according to the Calgary Herald.
“Aquatic invasive species are one of the largest threats facing Alberta’s waterways and biodiversity,” environment minister Kyle Fawcett said in a statement.
The government says the ongoing infestation of zebra and quagga mussels risks clogging the province’s pipes, which would cost $75 million a year to fix.
Researchers have documented both of the invasive species spreading throughout the western United States and eastern Canada, making it as far west as Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, according to the paper. The mussels filter through water, soaking up most of the nutrients that aquatic plants and animals depend on.
There’s no record of the non-native mussels in Alberta waterways, but several infested boats have been intercepted in the past couple of years. Both species can live out of water for 30 days and have a tendency to cling to tucked-away boat parts, such as propellers.
That’s where canine detectives Wicket, Lily and Orbee come in. The three, provided by the group Working Dogs for Conservation, were part of a pilot inspection program last summer. They’ll be continuing this boating season while the province sets up a permanent canine team.
Ngaio Richards, who trained Wicket, told the Herald that the black-lab mix is “exuberant” to be back on the job.
“She sits by where she’s found the scent, and if one of [us] asks ‘show me,’ she will indicate with her nose and gets a treat, which is a toy ball,” Richards said.“Sometimes shelter dogs are the best kind of dog for sniffing out things.”