Dogs search for zebra mussels in Yellowstone

Published: Jul. 23, 2019 at 11:42 PM CDT
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While Yellowstone Lake may be threatened by invasive species, the park’s problems could become yours, and cost you a lot of money. One solution to keeping invasive animals out of the park is to use dogs from animal shelters.

Tobias is working hard to find even the microscopic larvae of an aquatic animal from near Russia… it is the Zebra Mussel, which has already clogged lakes in the U.S. Tom Fratt has seen it in Wisconsin.

Fratt said, “They covered every hard structure in the lake.”

Yellowstone Park resource managers are working hard inspecting every boat to keep Zebra Mussels and other invasives out of Yellowstone Lake.

Yellowstone Resource Manager Vincent Nagashima explained, “That’ll entail going around the outside of it, looking at the trailer, the motor, any sort of fittings, the bilge, life jackets, paddles, anchors, ropes…”

That can take a lot of time for a park employee. A golden retriever named Tobias can find Mussels people can’t even see, in just a couple of minutes. His pay is a ball to play with.

The Executive Director of ‘Working Dogs for Conservation’ Pete Coppolillo remarked, “They’ve got the best chemical sensor in the world right on the front of their faces. They can detect things in parts per trillion.”

Tobias and a Shepherd named Lily came from shelters, and were trained for this kind of work by a Missoula based group called Working Dogs for Conservation. They’re in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for two weeks, sniffing out invadors.

Yellowstone’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator Sue Mills pointed out, “Zebra mussels, or Quagga mussels are the worst of the worst of invasive species and they could have devastating effects on the Park’s ecosystem. ”

She pointed out Yellowstone holds the headwaters for the Columbia River system, which is the only one in the U.S. that is not yet infected with Zebra Mussels.

She said if Yellowstone gets the invasive species, “The people in Portland would know about it. It would affect their electric bills…”

Mills said Yellowstone doesn’t have the budget to bring in dogs yet. The “working dogs” director says his canines can save billions of dollars by keeping zebra mussels out of the park.