Steve recently completed the field training for two new dogs in the Snowy Mountains at Kosciusko National Park which is a huge area of 690,000 hectares.
Earlier this year Steve trained Missy, an English Springer Spaniel as a trial to determine how successful a detection dog would be to locate the noxious hawkweed. A few months later, and the trial became a project as Missy’s nose was brilliant at locating the weed…even when it was covered in snow! Conner is a 10 months working English springer spaniel and Sally is a 16 months old cocker spaniel who have been assigned to Hillary Cherry from the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage to search for a highly noxious weed called Hawkweed.
The Kosciusko National Park is a rugged mix of mountains and wilderness with an alpine climate but is also home to Hawkweed. If this invasive plant is not eradicated it will cause massive ecological damage to the fragile mountain environment. It is very difficult for rangers to locate the weed and even more difficult when the ground is covered with snow. So there in lay a job for a dog’s nose.
The initial in field training saw both dogs getting used to the region with Steve placing the weed for them to locate. Well that only took a day! Now it’s all ‘wild finds’ as both dogs are now detecting and locating the plant in amongst vast areas of natural grassland that are tiny or hidden under another weed! It’s incredible that both dogs are now finding Hawkweed all on their own!
The speed in which Conner and Sally are operating is amazing which enhances the work being done by the rangers. So the future is very exciting for the department as the rangers see many more uses for their nose! So it’s a guarantee for more fun for the four-legged rangers.
UPDATE: 12.1.16 Two more dogs have since been trained to locate the weed and they are astounding everyone as to their ability to locate the weed. Sally the black Cocker Spaniel’s training was completed and more recently there is a new recruit who is Conner, who is a 16 weeks old Working English Springer Spaniel.
The detection of a noxious weed in the vastness of the Snowy Mountains is quite extraordinary and a first in Australia. Currently more projects to locate other noxious weeds and matter are underway.