Intercepting Invasive Invertebrate Species Before They Infest Waterbodies: The Inception and Implementation of Alberta’s Dedicated Canine Mussel Inspection Program

  • Cindy SawchukEmail author


Effective protection from invasive mussels requires strategic implementation of numerous intricately coordinated and, ideally, preventive approaches. Generating awareness in members of the public is also crucial, yet engaging on the magnitude of potential repercussions or the benefits of participating in preventive measures remains challenging. This chapter describes the extensive effort underway to keep invasive zebra and quagga mussels out of waterways in the Canadian province of Alberta via concerted watercraft inspections and other related initiatives. Focusing on the development then implementation of a dedicated team of detection dogs and handlers to partner with mussel Inspectors, the benefits of the dog teams are discussed in conjunction with the efforts of their human counterparts. Additional research and development possibilities, lessons learned, and recommendations are also provided.


Dog Detection Aquatic invasive species (AIS) Dreissenid mussel Zebra mussel Quagga mussel Watercraft inspection Water quality Monitoring 



In this chapter, I have tried to convey the scale of efforts expended in developing and implementing a successful canine mussel inspections program, and the sheer number of participants and stakeholders involved.

Thank you to our partners at WD4C and to Retired Lieutenant Lynette Shimek, without whom our program wouldn’t be where it is. Thanks also to Lynette for providing feedback on the chapter.

The financial support of the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association, and several individual Irrigation Districts, which fully funded our K9 program and the pilot project is gratefully acknowledged. Thank you for putting your trust in us.

The Crown Managers Partnership Steering Committee catalyzed Alberta into action on this important issue. Thanks also to the Montana Flathead Basin Commission, and to Mary Metz, Director Water Policy, Alberta Environment and Parks. David Ardell, Executive Director, Operations Infrastructure, is acknowledged for providing strategic leadership since the program inception.

This chapter benefited considerably from the talents of Patrick Wensveen of Environment and Parks, who produced all the map figures, and Caitlyin Tracey, who illustrated the mussel life stages (Fig. 4.1). André Lemay, Visual Engagement Designer, produced the ‘You’ve been sniffed’ cards and the educational material. Anish Neupane conducted the economic impact analysis to determine the annual cost of invasive mussels to Alberta.

Huge thanks to handlers Hannah McKenzie and Heather McCubbin, who also provided much of the data and images in this chapter. And of course—K9s Hilo, Seuss, and Diesel. We also acknowledge the hard work of Montana handlers Debra Tirmenstein—working with K9s Rosebud and Ismay, and Kyren Zimmerman—working with K9 Tobias.

Thanks to Kate Wilson for her tireless energy and commitment to the AIS cause and to keeping Alberta mussel free. We are grateful to the Hon. Minister Shannon Phillips, Environment and Parks, for her top-level support of our program.

If I were a raindrop I would explore almost everywhere. Every time I saw another raindrop I would mix in with it to become bigger. Every day it rains I will be able to go anywhere. And for those threats to destroy a raindrop I will try to avoid being turned into gas. But everything, everywhere can be my home…except sewers.

Jeremy Martin, age 11


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Government of Alberta (Alberta Environment and Parks)CanmoreCanada

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