Montana Black Dog Services sniffs out Aquatic Invasive Species

Posted at 8:03 AM, Jun 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-10 10:41:45-04

POLSON – Invasive mussel larvae were detected in the Tiber Reservoir and suspect detection in Canyon Ferry in the Fall of 2016.

To this date, no adult mussels have been detected in the state.

Invasive mussels can clog pipes, ruin boats and disturb Montana’s natural resources. This is where Deb Tiermenstein and her black labradors Ismay and Rosebud come in.

Tiermenstein told MTN News that her dogs are able to sniff out Aquatic Invasive Species when human eyes aren’t sharp enough.

Prior to Ismay and Rosebud sniffing out mussels, they were both trained cadaver dogs.

FWP loans Tiermenstein crushed up samples of AIS so she can train with Ismay and Rosebud. Tiermenstein hides a vile of crushed up AIS and then sends Ismay and Rosebud to hunt.

“You start with a sample of a mussel and you get them, you know, focused on that you train them to indicate in some way we use a passive alert which is to sit in their case so they’re not digging,” explained Tiermenstein.

Tiermenstein says it took months of scent identification and associative training with Rosebud and Ismay to locate the hidden mussel sample.

“And you also get them used to distractions, other scents that might resemble that or prove to be distracting, for example like a dead fish or a native mussel,” says Tiermenstein.

At the end of the day Tiermenstein says Ismay and Rosebud are just regular pets.

“They have what I call an on and off switch. They know when it’s work time and they know when it’s time to relax and be a regular dog,” says Tiermenstein.

You can find Tiermenstein, Rosebud and Ismay working at watercraft check stations this summer.

You can help stop the movement of AIS from one body of water to another by cleaning, draining and drying your boats as mussels can only survive in water and wet areas.