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Specially trained dogs enter province's fight against invasive zebra mussels

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In this file photo, a detection dog from the Montana-based Working Dogs for Conservation searches a boat for zebra mussels.

WORKING DOGS FOR CONSERVATION Enlarge Image

In this file photo, a detection dog from the Montana-based Working Dogs for Conservation searches a boat for zebra mussels.

The latest weapon in the province’s fight against the spread of zebra mussels is a dog.

Fauna and her handler, Natural Resources officer Chad Moir, are to be trained over the coming months to sniff out the invasive zebra mussels at various monitoring stations—like border crossings and boat launches—by next summer. Fauna is already trained to sniff out hidden fish fillets. A similar pilot program has been successful in Alberta.

Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said Friday Fauna is part of the province’s efforts to root out the mussels, which were first found in Lake Winnipeg last year.

Earlier this summer the province attempted to halt the spread of the mussels from four Lake Winnipeg harbours, but monitoring this summer in the treated harbours and other areas found a small number of larval or veliger zebra mussels. More than 60 previous samples had not revealed any zebra mussel activity in Lake Winnipeg. Since then, increased sampling has determined that zebra mussels are present in more areas, including:

  • On the east side of Lake Winnipeg, approximately six miles south-west from Balsam Bay, 44 veligers and juvenile zebra mussels were confirmed on a piece of floating debris and on rock structures. 
  • Winnipeg Beach sample results found 51 veligers inside the harbour and 193 veligers outside the harbour. 
  • Gimli and Arnes samples show suspected juvenile zebra mussels. Samples taken from these harbours are being analyzed. 
  • Willow Point samples found approximately 24 juvenile zebra mussels. 
  • Hnausa samples found about 12 juvenile zebra mussels.

The spread of the mussels indicates that they are reproducing outside the treated harbours in the South Basin of Lake Winnipeg and then entering the harbours.

Mackintosh said boat decontamination stations have been set up at Gimli, Winnipeg Beach and Selkirk Park, and portable decontamination units will move between other high-traffic harbours.

Manitobans and visitors are asked to use the proper four-step cleaning and containment protocol for mussels when leaving the lake. Boats should either be cleaned with high temperature and high-pressure water, or remain out of water for at least five days in the heat or 18 days in cooler temperatures, or left in freezing temperatures for three days before launching again.

He also said the province is working with the federal government, for more national assistance at the U.S. border in partnership with the Canadian Border Service Agency, to better monitor watercraft coming into the province from the United States.

The province is also looking at brining in similar laws to those in Minnesota that include tougher requirements for boaters.

The government said this includes laws about transporting water, introducing requirements to drain water from a boat before leaving a water body, requiring watercraft to be transported with the drain plug removed and for all water from boat and bait containers to be drained. Enforcement powers and fines are also under review.

Alberta is also looking at stricter measures.

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