12 March 2021

Release the hounds! Weed detection goes to the dogs

| Kim Treasure
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Claire Chiotti with dogs Connor and Sally.

Claire Chiotti from Tate Animal Enterprises with Connor, a working line springer spaniel, and Sally, a working line cocker spaniel, who are trained to sniff out hawkweed plants. Photo: Supplied.

Using dogs to sniff out drugs, cadavers and criminals is commonplace these days, but one regional council is now using hounds to take on bad guys in the weed world.

Snowy Monaro Regional Council and hawkweed eradication partners, including NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW Local Land Services, and NSW Department of Primary Industries, recently conducted a joint operation using hawkweed detection dogs.

The team, consisting of council’s biosecurity staff, Local Land Services, National Parks and Wildlife Service staff and volunteers, were joined by specialist weed-hunting dogs Connor and Sally, and their handler, Claire Chiotti, at sites in Braemar Bay and Snowy Plain.

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“Both mouse-ear and orange hawkweed pose significant risks to our local environments and agricultural lands,” said Snowy Monaro Regional Council Mayor Peter Beer.

“These species are incredibly hardy, and weeds can spread rapidly through a variety of means.”

Hawkweed plant.

Hawkweed can now be detected by dogs to enable its eradication. Photo: Supplied.

Hawkweed was historically sold in nurseries as an ornamental plant, but it out-competes native species and creates monocultures.

Ms Chiotti and her dogs helped the NSW hawkweed eradication partners find the smallest of hawkweed plants and the areas searched were cleared of any infestation.

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“This latest operation in the Snowy Monaro demonstrates council’s and the NSW Government’s commitment to proactively addressing biosecurity risks in our region,” said Mayor Beer.

The clever canines are also trained to sniff out alligator weed, parthenium weed, and the rare eastern underground orchard.

Snowy Monaro Regional Council has been using dogs to sniff out weeds every season since the summer of 2018, both to detect the weeds and raise awareness in the community.

With the NSW Hawkweed Eradication partnership ongoing, they are expected to return next year.


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