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Alberta sics dogs to sniff out zebra mussels

Alberta sics dogs to sniff out zebra musselsA dog is shown in this undated handout at a watercraft inspection station. The Alberta government has teamed up with Montana to pay for specially trained dogs that can sniff out zebra and quagga mussels attached to boats. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

EDMONTON - You have heard of bird dogs, but what about mussel mutts?

The Alberta government has teamed up with Montana to pay for specially trained dogs that can sniff out zebra and quagga mussels attached to boats.

These mussels have caused damage to water treatment infrastructure and aquatic ecosystems in other areas.

The hope is that the dogs will detect the mussels on boats being hauled on trailers at highway checkpoints and prevent them from spreading into Alberta waters.

The five dogs were trained in the U.S. and will be working for ten-day stretches on each side of the border.

Alberta Environment Minister Robin Campbell says prevention is the key because the mussels are almost impossible to get rid of once they get established.

“Zebra and quagga mussels pose a huge ecological and financial threat to Alberta, so we wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to stop their spread," Campbell said Wednesday.

Quagga and zebra mussels move from lake to lake by attaching themselves to boats and other recreational equipment.

Quagga mussels are found in various parts of North America, such as in the Colorado River system in the U.S., a popular destination for Alberta boaters.

Zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Winnipeg in October 2013.

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