Mussel-sniffing dogs having success keeping invasive species out of Alberta

The province says mandatory cross-border boat inspections to check for invasive mussels is working well.

1,200 boats inspected since June in Alberta-Montana pilot project

Diesel, part of the Conservation K9 program, at work checking a boat for zebra mussels. (Brian Burnett/CBC)

The province says mandatory cross-border boat inspections to check for invasive mussels is working well.

Since June, inspectors have been working with three specially trained dogs to spot the tiny species of the zebra and quagga mussels. The Alberta–Montana Canine Mussel Detection Pilot, the first of its kind in Canada, is working on both sides of the border to sniff out the mussels. 

Public education is part of a campaign to stop invasive species of mussels from getting into Alberta's waterways. (Brian Burnett/CBC)

They can cling to the bottoms of boats and hide in small places. The danger is that once they get established they can get into Alberta's waterways and choke out native species and clog water intake pipes and machinery.

Cindy Sawchuk is one of the dog handlers on the team.

"People were just unaware the issue in most of the situations so they weren't aware they were transporting invasive species, which is why it's so important that the public becomes aware through public education efforts to clean, dry and drain their boats every time."

The province says it has inspected more than 1,200 vessels across the province this season. So far, 10 needed to be decontaminated.

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