While most dogs spend their days running around and playing with toys, 5 dogs from a Montana based organisation Working Dogs for Conservation are hard at work aiding scientific research and conservation by combatting the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle Agrilus planipennis, one of the most destructive non-native insect pests in the USA. The Emerald Ash Borer was accidentally introduced into the USA and Canada in the 1990’s and has since spread to 14 states with devastating consequences for ash trees. It has been estimated that the Emerald Ash Borer infestation will likely eventually encompass 25 states with estimated treatment, tree removal and replacement costs of $10.7 billion. The biggest risk of spreading the invasive ash borer is by the movement and trade of ash products, timber and firewood infested with larvae which are concealed within the wood and notoriously hard to detect.
The dogs are trained much like law enforcement drug detecting dogs, with a focus on training the dogs to detect the smell of Emerald Ash Borer, which is threatening nearly 1 billion ash trees in Minnesota alone. Only 1 in 1000 dogs are suitable for the job as they must be highly energetic and trainable with a strong desire to receive rewards. The dogs trained on this program are all from rescue shelters where their active and enthusiastic nature has made them difficult to rehome as family pets. The group is working closely with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to train dogs for the pilot programme with the aim of using the dogs to find infested wood that can then be destroyed, thereby reducing the spread of Emerald Ash Borer.