Dogs will help sniff out invasive seed sources near the Snake River

JACKSON, Wyo. — In 2020, canine teams will be employed for the first time to help locate potential seed sources for invasive plant species being tracked near the Snake River.

Since 2002, the Jackson Hole Weed Management Association (JHWMA) and Teton County Weed & Pest (TCWP) have conducted an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) program on the Snake River to locate, remove, and eradicate saltcedar and perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium).

Saltcedar was first found on the Upper Snake River in 2001, leading to the beginnings of the Snake River Project in 2002. Saltcedar and perennial pepperweed, which is also an EDRR species on the Snake River, are both aggressive invaders of riparian areas. They grow in dense stands blocking access for wildlife and recreation and change soil nutrient loads creating ideal conditions for their growth while limiting the growth of other species. These changes to riparian areas impact the entire aquatic system by changing the amount of shade, food, and shelter available in aquatic systems.

After 17 years of floating the Snake River and searching gravel bars, human teams have found 107 saltcedar plants and 523 perennial pepperweed plants. These teams continue to find 1 or 2 saltcedar plants and nearly a dozen perennial pepperweed plants each year. These finds indicate that there is an upstream seed source that is being missed by human teams.

Working Dogs for Conservation (WD4C) has a long track record of being able to find things that humans alone cannot. WD4C has spent the last month scent training three canines and will send canine and handler teams, two at a time, to float the Snake River beginning at Moose to search for saltcedar and perennial pepperweed along the riverbanks and gravel bars to locate parent plants that are the seed source for plants found downstream. By eradicating these seed sources, future infestations will be prevented reducing the need for labor and herbicide over time. In subsequent years, WD4C will be contracted to continue working downstream in conjunction with human teams to ensure that all seed sources are found.

Canine teams will be on the islands on the river Monday, August 24 through Monday, August 31. Go online for more information on Working Dogs for Conservation.

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