K-9s sniff out invasive species in Lake Powell

Canadian dogs train in Page, Ariz.

PAGE, Arizona (ABC4 Utah) Conservation dogs from Canada sniffed out invasive species on the shores of Lake Powell. The international cooperation aims to prevent the spread of aquatic mussels this week. 

Lake Powell is the only Utah reservoir infested with quagga mussels. Working dogs from Canada use it as a training ground Wednesday. 

At the Glen Canyon Recreational Area headquarters, three-year-old Hilo hunted for a microscopic species that cause severe disruption to natural environments.  

The lab mix traveled to Lake Powell from Alberta to sniff real-life quagga mussels in their new habitat. The species infiltrated the reservoir in 2012.

"It's a bit of a game changer," Cindy Sawchuk said, Alberta Environment Works and Parks. 

The dogs work for Working Dogs For Conservation, a small conservation K-9 team based in the US trained to protect natural environments across the world. 

"They are using their nose and we are using our eyes. We are looking for things that are hard to find out there. To partner with dogs means we can still look and they can sniff and we are going to find a lot more of what we can find," Working Dogs For Conservation Aimee Hurt said. 

Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Colleen Allen wished Glen Canyon National Recreation Area had dogs to detect the mussels during an aggressive ten year battle to prevent an infestation. 

"This helps the folks down the road, other infested bodies of water of those bodies of water that have tested positive for the DNA or the valleger but have yet to be successful in finding any adult mussels," Allen said. 

Mussels hitchhike on boats traveling from infested lakes and rivers. Organizers say it's important for boaters follow proper procedures to prevent further spread.


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