Archived Story

Dogs help officials track ash borers

Published 8:42am Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fido and Sparky could soon be Mother Nature’s best friend.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is partnering with Working Dogs for Conservation to train dogs to find Emerald Ash Borer-infested wood and ash tree material. The goal, according to a MDA release, is to deploy the dogs to help regulatory crews find infested wood that may harbor the invasive tree pest.

Four detection dogs began learning ash borer and infested wood scents in ash trees in Minnesota last April, and are finishing their third and final phase of training. The final phase includes comprehensive searches for infested wood in firewood piles, yard waste sites, and commercial vehicles. The dogs have already been trained to recognize ash tree and ash borer scents in isolated containers, and target scents while camouflaged with other scents in a controlled setting.

“We launched this idea as a pilot program,” said MDA Plant Protection Director Geir Friisoe. “We were hopeful, but did not know if the dogs could pick up on ash tree and EAB scents. The fact that the dogs can detect not only infested wood but specifically ash wood has exceeded our expectations.”

This is the first time anyone in the U.S. has partnered to work with dogs to detect ash borers. Working Dogs for Conservation hopes to build upon the research phase to make detection dogs available for hire by other states and regulating agencies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service is also using dogs to detect Asian longhorned beetle, another invasive beetle that has infested trees in some Eastern states.

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