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Weed-Sniffing Dogs

July 21, 2010

Trained dogs sniff out invasive plants.


Sniffing out plant invaders…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Spotted knapweed is one of many invasive plants choking out native species in the western United States. Inspired by the USDA’s “Beagle Brigade”, which uses trained dogs to sniff out prohibited fruits, vegetables and meats at ports of entry, invasive plant specialist Kim Goodwin and her colleagues at Montana State University recently field-tested dogs to see if they could locate spotted knapweed for eradication.

KIM GOODWIN (Montana State University):
The dogs were trained to detect the scent of spotted knapweed first with standard narcotics detection protocol, and then to search for the scent in the field with techniques that are currently used in search and rescue. The overall accuracy of the dogs was 81% compared to the human surveyors at 59%.

She says the dogs could be trained to locate other kinds of invasive plants as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.