Ernie's training culminated with a parking-lot demonstration of sniffing prowess. Photo Credit: Courtesy of MCDI

Animals USA26. January 2021

This Invasive Tiny Species Doesn’t Stand a Chance Against the Powerful Snout of Two Dogs

Two dogs are using their powerful sense of smell to detect a minuscule and invasive species of snail that has been infesting the waterways of Wisconsin, United States, for the last ten years.

Since dogs have a sense of smell 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans, the two Milwaukee Labrador retrievers trained to detect the New Zealand mud snail which is only 3mm long. “I have to tell you, I was really skeptical,” admits Maureen Ferry, an aquatic invasive species expert at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Once their two-month training completed, the two dogs were able to detect the snails with a 75% accuracy.

First discovered in the state of Idaho in 1987, the New Zealand mud snail adapts easily to new environments. Moreover, a single female can produce 40 million snails in a year. Because of their impressive number, they consume half of the available food in streams, endangering native species that struggle to eat.

So far, dogs have been useful to detect drugs, explosives, and stolen items, or to find missing persons. Now, dogs are put through canine conservation programs to search for endangered and invasive species, bacterial diseases that are instrumental to the demise of trees, even to detect coronavirus. Last fall in Finland, four dogs were able to detect Covid-19 with a near-perfect accuracy at the Helsinki Airport.


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