Mussel-sniffing Dog “Puddles” Joins Fight Against Invasive Species


Mussel-sniffing Dog “Puddles” Joins Fight Against Invasive Species

The newest member of the team that protects Washington’s waterways from invasive species has quite the ruff routine: Sniff, sit, play!

Starting this spring, Puddles, a 2-year-old Jack Russel terrier mix, will use her keen sense of smell to help detect quagga and zebra mussel larvae on boats traveling through mandatory watercraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Invasive mussels can impact our state’s water quality, power and irrigation systems, wildlife and recreation,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council. “We all need to work together to prevent invasive mussels from changing our way of life and harming resources we value. In many ways, invasive mussels would change what it means to be a Washingtonian.”

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog piping and mechanical systems of industrial plants, utilities, locks and dams. Researchers estimate that invasive species cost industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years, and the power industry more than $3 billion.

“We believe Puddles will be a great addition to the Washington invasive species program,” said Heidi McMaster, regional invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which paid for her training as part of the Bureau’s fight to keep the Columbia River basin and Washington State free of invasive mussels. “Reclamation is proud to be part of this effort to prevent the introduction of quagga mussels to the Columbia River basin.”

Puddles was initially surrendered to a shelter in Fresno, California where she caught the attention of the Green Dog Project’s “Rescued for a Reason” program. Staff at the Green Dog Project contacted Mussel Dogs, a training program for dogs, and Puddles was trained there. WDFW Sergeant Pam Taylor spent 2 weeks in California and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah training with her.

Puddles is just one of the ways the State is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and other partners to control and stop the spread of invasive species. Other initiatives focus on invasive mussel monitoring, mandatory boat inspections that check more than 24,000 boats travelling to Washington’s waterways every year, and an exercise at Lake Roosevelt later this fall to test systems for responding to a mussel infestation.

How boaters can help

The Washington Invasive Species Council asks the public to Clean–Drain–Dry their boats and gear.

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. This includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from watercraft or gear, including live and transom wells, before leaving the access point to the water.

If transporting watercraft from outside Washington State, clean and dry everything: Once home, let all gear fully dry before using it in a different water body.

Just draining and letting your watercraft and gear dry may not sufficiently remove some invasive species. In this case, call the State’s aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS). Be prepared to provide the state and water body where your watercraft was used and whether you decontaminated your watercraft before you left that state. In certain conditions, WDFW will require a free intensive decontamination upon entry into Washington.

It is illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face a maximum penalty of a year in jail and $5,000 in fines.

Staci Lehman / Justin Bush
Washington Invasive Species Council      

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