Montana Using Dogs to Hunt Down Invasive Weeds

There is no limit to what we can hunt with a dog. From small to big game, birds to rabbits to pigs to deer to lions and bears. And it doesn't stop there. They also hunt bombs, suspects, illegal drugs, people trapped in rubble, even bedbugs. But now a group in Montana is using dogs' amazing sense of smell to track down and eliminate noxious weeds.

From this story in the Missoulian:
Seamus is a professional hunting dog with immense focus and energy, but the 3-year-old border collie doesn't track wild animals. Seamus hunts Dyer's woad, an invasive weed found on Mount Sentinel...A decade ago, there were hundreds of Dyer's woad on Mount Sentinel, but now there are so few that they're hard to detect. But every last plant matters because there are up to 400 seeds in one Dyer's woad plant, and the seeds can spread. "It looks like every other plant on the hill," said Dalit Guscio, a conservation dog handler. Enter Seamus, with his intense sense of smell and hard work ethic. MSU has contracted with Working Dogs for Conservation, a Bozeman-based business that uses dogs to track noxious weeds and conduct animal population counts.
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_Working Dogs for Conservation, which started in 2000, has tracked Chinese clover in Iowa, brown tree snakes in Guam, an invasive snail in Hawaii and the scat of moon bears in China. The company employs four full-time workers, all of whom are conservation biologists and half of whom have doctorate degrees. Those biologists work with nine dogs, all rescued from local shelters. Working Dogs for Conservation looks for the most hyper, toy-crazy dogs it can find - traits that don't necessarily make them the best family pets, said executive director Megan Parker. Working Dogs for Conservation tests 1,000 to 2,000 dogs before finding one that can accomplish the job. Handlers live with the dogs, and each tracking dog receives a minimum of nine weeks of training before its first assignment. The dogs easily pick up scents.

Now if I could only train my dogs to sniff out and alert me to where my wife hides the cookies...