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Pooch patrol to protect plants in peril

Pooch patrol to protect plants in perilCanada geese peer out from a grassy field in Calais, Vt., on May 27, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Toby Talbot

OTTAWA - Wanted: A few good hounds to stave off a menacing airborne assault in Canada's capital.

The federal government plans to hire trained dogs this spring to protect its central experimental farm from incursions of hungry Canada geese.

Agriculture Canada recently issued a tender for dawn and dusk pooch patrols, five days a week, across 300 hectares of fields at the Ottawa farm, which is used to develop new crops.

The work will require at least two dogs, sometimes more, to be directed by experienced handlers.

The tender document says the animals must be trained "specifically for scaring, not for retrieving," and that no geese may be killed or injured.

It's the second year that Agriculture Canada has brought in dogs to control goose visitations at the farm, which was established in 1886 on what used to be the outskirts of Ottawa.

Last year, two border collies and a trainer were hired for $44,000 to drive away more than 1,000 geese, notorious for gobbling up seeds from newly sown fields — ruining hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of experiments.

"When left uncontrolled, geese can damage valuable research crops and hinder important agricultural research work that brings benefits to farmers and the agricultural sector," said spokesman James Watson.

Previous efforts using decoys and even human patrols failed. The canine crew will operate April to June, during the first goose assault, and August to November when the birds return.

The farm is used to grow wheat, soybeans, barley, corn and other crops.

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