Dog helps sniff out invasive mussels in Calif. lakes

September 3, 2012 7:39:16 PM PDT
It's a case of one sensitive nose versus some very tenacious mussels. A dog named Popeye is being used in an experiment to sniff out invasive quagga and zebra mussels on boats in Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino.

Though the mussels are indigenous to the Ukraine, they've spread to the United States and have caused more than $500 million in damage nationwide. The invasive mussels reproduce quickly to overtake a waterway and destroy its natural habitats and fisheries. Lake Mendocino is one of the last places in the nation without an infestation.

The counties spent $3,000 to bring the chocolate lab in. Popeye is specifically trained to sniff out the invasive mussels, or even their larvae on the hulls of boats, "It would take me 15 minutes to check a boat," said Joel Miller, U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers. "The dog can do it in 30 seconds."

Debi DeShon trained Popeye. She says he regards the exercise as one big game, "When he smells the mussels, he sits down and gets his toy."

Through the holiday weekend, however, that didn't happen. After nearly 200 inspections, no mussels were found in Lake Mendocino.

But don't worry about Popeye. DeShon says he still got his treats, and enjoyed swimming in the water.


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