For the first time the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be using three zebra mussel sniffing K-9 teams to help combat the spread of the aquatic invasive species (AIS). During the open waters season the K-9 teams will be used throughout the state to help prevent the spread of AIS. With over 11,000 lakes in Minnesota protecting the precious water is high priority and Minnesota is only the second state in the country to use trained dogs.
Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement director said the use of the K-9 units is to complement and support the invasive species prevention efforts but that it should not overshadow the personal responsibility that all boaters and anglers have in the prevention of aquatic invaders. It has been proven that a K-9 can find zebra mussels on a boat much faster than a human inspector and that is why Minnesota opted to use K-9 units. The Minnesota mussel dogs were trained in-house for 5 weeks by Travis Muyres, an experienced K-9 handlers and other certified K-9 unit trainers. The first dog on the team is “Laina” a Belgium Malinois who was purchased from a domestic breeder. The other two dogs, “Brady” and “Digger” are Labrador Retrievers that were chosen from animal shelters and rescue programs. Although it is difficult to find qualified detector dogs all three have proven they have the search drive that will prove to be invaluable in detecting aquatic invasive species.
Not only will the K-9’s be trained in sniffing out zebra mussels they will also be trained in tracking, evidence recovery, firearms detection, and wildlife detection. This will be added value to the DNR’s capabilities in protecting the states natural resources. The two other K-9 units that have been used since 1995 have not been trained on sniffing out zebra mussels.
Zebra mussels are a worry for the Minnesota DNR and have been found on multiple lakes across the state. They can multiply out of control and dramatically change the ecosystem of a body of water. Because zebra mussels are so small, only about the size of a fingernail, they are easily transported by boaters and are hard to detect. Not only will the DNR be employing K-9 units but will have between 126-146 human watercraft inspectors stationed around the state at various lakes this summer. Boaters and anglers need to follow the laws laid forth by the DNR in the prevention of aquatic invasive species so we all can continue to enjoy the Minnesota rivers and lakes.
A video of the zebra mussel trained dogs