The west’s version of kudzu — a noxious weed known as Dyer’s woad — is being sniffed out by specially trained dogs as part of a program in Montana aimed at eradicating the fast-spreading, yellow blooming, Russian-born member of the mustard family.
First found in Montana in 1934, the weed, native to southeast Russia, can grow four inches in a week, produce as many as 10,000 seeds, send its roots five feet underground and climb waist high, leaving little room for native plants.
That’s where the dogs come in.
Deb Tirmenstein and her dogs — a Labrador named Wibaux and a border collie called Seamus — joined Montana’s Dyer’s woad eradication project in 2011.
Wibaux, initially trained to find cadavers, and Seamus, who was rescued from a Bozeman shelter, now scramble up and down mountains sniffing out pockets of the weed. When they find some, they get a treat, and the weed gets sprayed with herbicides.
The project grew out of research conducted at Montana State University, acording to an article by the Montana State University News Service, published in the Helena Independent Record.
Montana Dyer’s Woad Cooperative Project started in 1984, and it has seen the weed’s presence drop from 17 counties down to seven – Beaverhead, Silver Bow, Carbon, Flathead, Gallatin, Missoula and Park.
The dogs are just the most recent tool in the battle.
Kim Goodwin, a research associate in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences in MSU’s College of Agriculture, started investigating the possibility of using dogs to detect noxious weeds when she was a master’s degree student at MSU.
Goodwin’s research showed that dogs and people complement each other when looking for noxious weeds. People can spot large flowering patches of the plants ; dogs can detect single plants, even before they start sprouting.
“Through our research, we found they are able to detect twice as many small plants as the surveyors do,” Goodwin said.
This year on Mount Sentinel in Missoula the dogs detected about 40 locations that humans missed, said Goodwin, whose original research used German shepherds and focused on knapweed.
Goodwin said she got the idea for using dogs to detect noxious weeds after reading about the ”Beagle Brigade,” which inspects luggage and boxes for the USDA at U.S. airports and ports of entry.
Trainers introduced Wibaux to Dyer’s woad by hiding the weed inside a box with holes in the lid and placing the box next to boxes containing other weeds.
When Wibaux realized she would receive a treat or get to retrieve a ball every time she detected Dyer’s woad, she started honing in on it.
(Photos of Wibaux and Seamus by Sepp Jannotta / MSU)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 15th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, border collie, control, Deb Tirmenstein, detection, dogs, dyers woad, eradication, idaho, kim goodwin, labrador, montana, montana state university, nature, noxious, pets, program, research, retriever, science, seamus, sniff, sniffing, weed, weeds, west, wibaux, woad