Mussel-sniffing dogs inspect boats at Lake Sonoma

Image 1 of 4

California boaters must pass the inspection of a detection dog before launching in Lake Sonoma or Lake Mendocino.

Mussel Dogs, a team of trainers and dogs, will be checking boats and water crafts for invasive species of mussels - Zebra and Quagga. The mussels are found in neighboring states and in Southern California. They're known to multiply by the thousands quickly and disrupt the lakes' ecosystems and clog water intake pipelines.

Mussel Dogs has operated in valley area lakes since 2011. The group began summer inspections at Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino last weekend. Mussel Dogs will receive a national award from the Reduce Risks from Invasive Species Coalition next month for its work preventing the spread of the mussels, which are smaller than a quarter.

"When they're first born, they're microscopic, so you can't see them," said handler Freddy Fahl.
"He can smell them."

Captain Korky is the detection dog handling weekend boaters at Lake Sonoma this summer. Captain Korky was a shelter dog at Green Dog Rescue Project in Windsor before his training at Mussel Dogs.

"He likes to get out and work," said Fahl.
"It's a hide-n-seek game for him. He shows real intense interest in a certain area. He'll work his way until he finds exactly what he's sniffing for."

If the mussels are discovered on a boat, the boat needs to be cleaned and completely dried. Fahl said the mussels can live outside of water for up to 30 days. So far, Mussel Dogs has not found any of the invasive mussels on any boats heading into Northern California Lakes.