- Associated Press - Friday, May 5, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is adding more canine inspectors to its enforcement arsenal to help stop invasive zebra mussels from spreading in waterways.

The agency began with two dogs four years ago, and it’s adding two more dogs this year, Minnesota Public Radio (https://bit.ly/2phd4Cq ) reported.

The new dogs are German Shorthair Pointers: Shelby, a female, will patrol the Twin Cities, and Storm, a male, will be based in northwest Minnesota.

K-9 unit coordinator Jason Beckmann said it cost $13,000 to buy and train the two new dogs, which can also track people and find firearms in the off season. The expense was covered by a $25,000 federal grant.

The canines are trained to smell zebra mussels on boats.

“When they detect the odor of a zebra mussel they’ll actually sit down to indicate that they’ve found that and then they get a reward,” Beckmann said.

He said the dogs’ olfactory skills can find the invasive mussels in places human inspectors might miss.

“Baby zebra mussels, what they call veligers, they can be present in water,” Beckmann said. “They can be up inside of motors, in bilges, live wells, things like that, that an inspector might not be able to see. And a dog can still smell that.”

The dogs only sniff out zebra mussels in the summer, but the dogs still are on duty the rest of the year.

“Our zebra mussel dogs are also cross trained to track people and find firearms and shell casings. Because in the off season we want to keep the dogs active and keep them busy,” Beckmann said. “So they do a lot of stuff with our field officers during deer hunting season and fishing season.”

Beckmann said he hopes each dog will be able to work eight years before retiring. The agency plans to make K-9 conservation officers a permanent part of the department’s enforcement division workforce.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org


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