An invasive species are causing huge headaches for people in Montana, and dogs are using their noses to help deal with it.
The state of Montana has a major problem on its hands, and authorities are turning to dogs for help. Zebra and quagga mussels are two invasive species that have caused major ecological problems since first being found in the United States in the 1980s, costing billions of dollars, and now a new strategy involving dogs is giving people hope.
The dogs are trained to pick up the scent of zebra and quagga mussels to help authorities find them before they take hold in an area. The dogs are stationed at boat-inspection sites, preventing any new quagga and zebra mussels from slipping into the state from the outside.
The effort has expanded after larvae was found in a reservoir in Montana. Three dog teams were sent to other lakes to check the shorelines to see if there were more infestations.
Zebra and quagga mussels come from Eastern Europe, brought by seagoing ships in the 1980s. The mussels don’t have any natural predators in the United States, so their populations have exploded, gobbling up plankton that native fish need to survive. They also ruin pipes and cause other damage.
“Quagga and zebra mussels are commonly called ‘bivalves,’ meaning they have two shells (or valves),” the National Park Service says on its website. “Shell color and patterns vary from a dark striped pattern, to a light tan shell with zig-zag stripes, to completely brown or light colored with little striping. These mussels have byssal threads, which allow them to attach to hard surfaces such as boats. Quagga and zebra mussel larvae are microscopic, while adults may be up to two inches long. They are usually found in clusters and may live 4 to 5 years.
“Fisheries are destroyed by the presence of these invasive filter-feeding mussels. Quagga and zebra mussels remove plankton from the water. Plankton are the primary food source for forage fish and forage fish are the food of sport fishes. For example, the lake trout population in Lake Ontario has declined by 95 percent in the past 10 years due to a crash in the food chain caused by invasive mussels.”