MURRAY COUNTY - According to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Invasive Species Specialist Allison Gamble, there’s not much that can be done once a lake is infested with zebra mussels beyond attempting to reduce spreading to other water sources.
That’s where Brady, an 8-year-old golden retriever mix trained in zebra mussel detection, comes in.
Brady and his handler, Julie Siems, a Minnesota conservation officer, were in Murray County Thursday after zebra mussel infestation was recently confirmed at Lake Sarah north of Slayton.
Since multiple sightings of zebra mussels on Lake Sarah have already been confirmed, Brady’s efforts were more focused to the east at Lake Shetek.
Some minimal search efforts prior to Brady’s search Thursday for the invasive mussel had already occurred through the stream channel that connects Lake Shetek to Lake Sarah. While the initial search produced no sightings of zebra mussels, Brady and his nose were employed along Lake Shetek during organized removals of boat docks and lifts.
It’s not yet known if zebra mussels were discovered at Lake Shetek as a result of Brady’s search, as the DNR has a testing and confirmation protocol it must follow before notifying the public of an infestation.
Siems said Brady is not a tool to assist in writing citations, but a detection tool tailored to prevent future infestations. As part of his work, he searches boat docks and lifts as they’re removed from the water, as well as public access areas before watercraft are introduced to a new lake.
According to Gamble, zebra mussels - which are known to attach to hard surfaces in clumps - are visible. However, K-9s like Brady are specifically an asset in detection efforts on items that have many nooks and crannies that would be difficult to search otherwise.
Stationed in southeastern Minnesota, Siems and Brady are one of three handler/K-9 teams across the state with the ability to detect the presence of zebra mussels.
A rescue dog, Brady is trained much like K-9s employed in law enforcement agencies for drug detection, although he isn’t trained to detect drugs.
However, he is able to detect a different set of scents more applicable to his role. He can sniff out and alert Siems to the presence of venison, guns/ammunition and waterfowl.
“That way he can stay active,” Siems said.
While he cannot differentiate between the handful of scents he’s trained to detect, any detection still results in his favorite reward - his ball.