Gateway Gazette

Alberta’s Top Dogs are on the Trail of an Invasive Weed

The Aquatic Invasive Species Conservation K-9 Program is branching out into invasive weed detection in Fish Creek Provincial Park. 

14370435_10157517128520338_5203500547097835730_nAlberta is once again leading the way in the fight against invasive species by expanding its innovative Conservation K-9 Program to include detection of the plant Thesium arvense within Fish Creek Provincial Park.

“Invasive weeds are a substantial threat to Alberta’s biodiversity. Expanding the successful Conservation K-9 Program to include the detection of this invasive weed is an exciting next step for these talented dogs and their handlers.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

 

Working Dogs for Conservation has once again teamed up with the Conservation K-9 Unit to train Hilo, Diesel, Seuss, and their handlers, to detect this new target.

“Following the success we have had using dogs across the world to detect several other weeds we are excited to train the Alberta K-9 Unit to detect Thesium arvense. Hilo, Diesel, and Seuss are extraordinary dogs and excel in their training.”

Aimee Hurt, Co-founder and Director of Operations, Working Dogs for Conservation

 

Impact on Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek Provincial Park is also the only known location for Thesium arvense in Canada. This species has multiplied significantly in the park since its discovery in 2001. Thesium arvense uses host plants to acquire resources for survival and its impact on the park or surrounding areas is a concern for both park and municipal staff.

“We are glad to see such an innovative approach to address the ongoing issue of invasive weeds in the park. We have worked with parks’ staff for many years on this issue and hope this project signals a renewed effort toward finding new and efficient ways to attack this big problem.”

 

Quick facts

  • The Aquatic Invasive Species Conservation K-9 Program was awarded approximately $25,000 through Alberta Environment and Park’s Innovation Fund for a pilot project to train mussel-sniffing dogs to detect the invasive weed, Thesium arvense, in Fish Creek Provincial Park.
  • Dogs are widely known to be an efficient, accurate, and a non-invasive way to collect data.
  • Once the dogs are trained to detect Thesium arvense, they will be used to help park staff map areas in which the plant is present, and provide data to support reducing its presence in the park over time in order to improve and maintain native plant biodiversity.
  • Having the distribution of this invasive weed mapped would assist the park in making decisions on control options and focusing control efforts.
  • Thesium arvense is part of the Sandalwood Family and uses host plants to acquire resources for survival.
  • At present, Fish Creek Provincial Park and its immediate surroundings are the only known locations of Thesium arvense in Canada, and there is limited information about its biology and control methods as it is typically found in China and central Europe.
  • The non-profit organization Friends of Fish Creek Park will be assisting Alberta Environment and Parks in the eradication of the weed inside the park.

 

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