Contributed

Detective dog, from Nelson, joins fight to combat invasive mussels

K9 Major will be on the road starting this month, hunting for quagga and zebra mussels

He loves to work, has a goofball personality and a knack for detecting unusual smells like bear gall bladders, firearms, shell casings, zebra and quagga mussels dead or alive.

His name is K9 Major — the B.C. Conservation Officer Service’s detection dog that’s been on the job since early December, teaching Sgt. Cynthia Mann new things nearly every day, said the province in a news release.

“They are just incredible animals and his drive blows me away. When I put on his harness and show him his toy, that dog switches everything off and he’s zoned into work,” said Mann, who’s based in Nelson and has had the 15-month-old German shepherd since the end of October.

READ MORE: Okanagan water board wants more invasive mussels protection

“I’ve had dogs my whole life so this was a great opportunity. I jumped at the chance to become a handler.”

Like the other COS detection dog Kilo, based in Kelowna with Sgt. Josh Lockwood, Major will primarily be on the road from late March to October, searching for invasive mussels on boats travelling through and into B.C. But he can also assist officers with a variety of other investigations by finding shell casings, poached animals or illegal firearms hidden inside vehicles during hunting season, the release said.

To become a validated detection team, the pair spent five weeks going through intense daily training sessions. They continue to train a couple times a week, searching for hidden objects placed around the office, open spaces or the warehouse where boats, sleds and trailers are stored. Mann watches Major’s every move, looking for an indication he’s found an odour. When he does find what he’s looking for, Major is rewarded with his toy, causing a frenzy of excitement.

READ MORE: More to do in fight against invasive mussels says water board

The B.C. COS leads enforcement operations for the Invasive Mussel Defence Program, which aims to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from entering the province. Beginning in early April, Major and Kilo will be at 12 watercraft inspection stations set up at key points throughout the province. In his first year, Kilo conducted more than 900 inspections and found invasive mussels on two vessels, proving a need for a second detection dog.

Suspected invasive mussels should be disclosed to the report all poachers and polluters line at 1-877-952-7277.

READ MORE: Kelowna chamber wants more federal money to fight invasive mussels in B.C.

READ MORE: Preventing invasive mussels in the Shuswap


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