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'Puddles' joins fight against invasive species

Mussel-sniffing dog helps keep waterways clean


Courtesy Photo

Puddles, the mussel-sniffing dog

OLYMPIA-Drug-sniffing dogs are nothing new, but what about dogs that sniff for mussels? Puddles is a 2-year-old Jack Russel terrier mix is the newest member of the team that protects Washington's waterways from invasive species.

Puddles uses her keen sense of smell to detect zebra mussel larvae and quagga on boats traveling through mandatory watecraft-inspection stations run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Invasive mussels are a bigger problem than one might think.

"Invasive mussels can impact our state's water quality, power and irrigation systems, wildlife and recreation," said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council. "We all need to work together to prevent invasive mussels from changing our way of life and harming resources we value. In many ways, invasive mussels would change what it means to be a Washingtonian."

Quagga and zebra mussels can clog piping and mechanical systems of industrial plants, utilities, locks and dams. Researchers estimate that invasive species cost industries, businesses and communities more than $5 billion nationwide over 6 years, and the power industry more than $3 billion, according to a WDFW press release.

Puddles is a rescue dog that was surrendered to a shelter in Fresno, Calif. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation paid for Puddles' training as part of the Bureau's fight to keep the Columbia River basin and Washington State free of invasive mussels and the introduction of quagga.

How boaters can help:

The Washington Invasive Species Council asks the public to Clean–Drain–Dry their boats and gear.

Clean: When leaving the water, clean all equipment that touched the water by removing all visible plants, algae, animals and mud. This includes watercraft hulls, trailers, shoes, waders, life vests, engines and other gear.

Drain: Drain any accumulated water from watercraft or gear, including live and transom wells, before leaving the access point to the water.

If transporting watercraft from outside Washington State, clean and dry everything: Once home, let all gear fully dry before using it in a different water body.

Just draining and letting your watercraft and gear dry may not sufficiently remove some invasive species. In this case, call the State's aquatic invasive species hotline (1-888-WDFW-AIS). Be prepared to provide the state and water body where your watercraft was used and whether you decontaminated your watercraft before you left that state. In certain conditions, WDFW will require a free intensive decontamination upon entry into Washington.

It is illegal to transport or spread aquatic invasive species and violators can face a maximum penalty of a year in jail and $5,000 in fines.


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