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DNR conservation officers using dogs to detect zebra mussels

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be using three zebra mussel-sniffing K-9 teams for the first time this year to help combat the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). Minnesota is the second state in the country to use trained dogs to prevent the spread of AIS, and they will be used throughout the state during the open water season.

“The use of K-9s is a progressive enforcement tool that will complement and support our invasive species prevention efforts,” said Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement director. “However, they should not overshadow the fact that preventing the spread of AIS is still everyone’s personal responsibility.”

Earlier this year, Minnesota conservation officers Todd Kanieski and Travis Muyres traveled to California to learn about the country’s first program successfully utilizing mussel trained K-9’s to prevent the spread of AIS. “A K-9 can find a mussel on a boat much faster than a human inspector,” said Kanieski.

Muyres’ K-9 mussel team partner “Laina” is a Belgian Malinois, the other teams include water resource enforcement officers Lt. Julie Siems and her K-9 partner “Brady” and Lt. Larry Hanson and his K-9 partner “Digger.” Siems’ and Hanson’s dogs are Labrador retrievers provided by animal shelters and animal rescue organizations.

The mussel detecting K-9s will also be receiving training in tracking, evidence recovery, firearms detection, and wildlife detection. “Combining mussel detecting with these additional skills will add muscle to the DNR’s capabilities and efficiency in protecting the state’s natural resources,” said Kanieski.

The DNR Enforcement Division has utilized K-9s to assist in protecting our natural resources since 1995, although the DNR’s two current K-9 units are not trained in mussel detection.

According to the DNR, zebra mussels can multiply out of control and dramatically change the ecosystem of a body of water. They are often transported from lake to lake by boaters. The mussels are only about the size of a finger nail, and their larvae microscopic, making them tough to find. They have been discovered on various lakes across the state.

The Minnesota DNR would like boaters to know they are required by law to:

  • Remove aquatic plants, zebra mussels and other prohibited species from boats, trailers and equipment before transporting from any water access.
  • Drain all water from bilges, livewells, motors, ballast tanks and portable bait containers before leaving water accesses or shoreline property.
  • Remove the drain plug, open water draining devices, and drain bilges and livewells; the drain plug must be removed or open when transporting a boat on public roads.

If you are out boating this season and have a chance to meet one of these new DNR dogs, snap a photo and share your experience.

As always, thanks for stopping past!

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