N.D. walleye tournament brings mussel-sniffing dogs

7 11 Mussels Dogs
A zebra mussel-sniffing dog in action in Minnesota. Such dogs will be on hand for a walleye tournament in North Dakota. (Photo by Brian Peterson)

The effort to combat the spread and introduction of invasive zebra mussels in North Dakota waters is going to the dogs.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has partnered with Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens who will employ their professionally trained K-9 companions to detect the presence of zebra and quagga mussels on boats being launched in the North Dakota Governor’s Walleye Cup tournament.

The corps will host a mussel K-9 demonstration open to the public July 14 and 10 a.m. at Ft. Stevenson State Park south of Garrison. The K-9s and handlers will inspect each boat for the invasive species during angler registration and launching. Compared to humans, K-9s provide a level of detection far beyond human capabilities, resulting in reduced risk, faster launch times and greater accountability.

“It’s nice to share the collective goal of preserving and protecting North Dakota’s fisheries. By taking proactive measures we can prevent the introduction of zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species into Lake Sakakawea,” said Ben Holen, North Dakota Game and Fish Department aquatic nuisance species coordinator. “By using the unorthodox approach of mussel-sniffing dogs, we are not only proactively looking for zebra mussels using an acute detection method, but also displaying the importance of ANS prevention measures, which is a message shared by all including the Governor’s Cup committee, tournament anglers, Corps of Engineers and the Game and Fish.”

Joyce Pfliger, Governor’s Walleye Cup chairwoman, applauds the addition of ANS-sniffing dogs to the long-running tournament on the big lake.

“The opportunity to have these ANS sniffing dogs take part in the Governor’s Walleye Cup and to assist with keeping our lake free of ANS is fantastic,” she said. “Hopefully, with bringing these dogs to North Dakota, it will open up the possibility of having ANS dogs here permanently. This would be one positive, additional step in the fight against ANS.”

Todd Lindquist, operation project manager for the corps in Riverdale, said the corps is ramping up their public outreach efforts to stop the introduction and spread of invasive mussels, knowing the devastating impacts invasive mussel infestation can have on Lake Sakakawea and the ripple effects on tourism, biodiversity and infrastructure.

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