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Wags and weeds: Invasive plants meet match in detection dogs

The latest weapon in the fight against invasive species is the sniffing power of dogs trained to find noxious weeds before they flower and spread seeds.

The nonprofit New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has trained a Labrador retriever named Dia to find Scotch broom plants in two state parks 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City. The invasive shrub is widespread in the Pacific Northwest but new to New York, and land managers hope to eradicate it before it gets established.

Detection dogs have long been used to sniff out drugs, explosives and disaster survivors. Now there's a growing number being trained to find targeted invasive plants so conservationists can uproot them.

Dia, a Labrador retriever, uses her sense of smell to find Scotch broom, an invasive species, in Harriman State Park in Tuxedo, N.Y., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. The nonprofit New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has trained Dia to find Scotch broom plants in two state parks 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City. The invasive shrub is widespread in the Pacific Northwest but new to New York, and land managers hope to eradicate it before it gets established. (AP PhotoSeth Wenig)

Montana-based Working Dogs for Conservation is training dogs to find invasive insects and mussels as well as plants.

Arden Blumenthal, a NY-NJ Trails conference intern, marks a Scotch broom plant, an invasive species, found by Dia, a plant sniffing dog, in Harriman State Park in Tuxedo, N.Y., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. The nonprofit New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has trained Dia to find Scotch broom plants in two state parks 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City. The invasive shrub is widespread in the Pacific Northwest but new to New York, and land managers hope to eradicate it before it gets established. (AP PhotoSeth Wenig)

Dia, a Labrador retriever, gets some elevation to try and smell Scotch broom, an invasive species, in Harriman State Park in Tuxedo, N.Y., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. The nonprofit New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has trained Dia to find Scotch broom plants in two state parks 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City. The invasive shrub is widespread in the Pacific Northwest but new to New York, and land managers hope to eradicate it before it gets established. (AP PhotoSeth Wenig)

Arden Blumenthal, a NY-NJ Trails conference intern, removes a GPS from Dia's dog pack in Harriman State Park in Tuxedo, N.Y., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. The nonprofit New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has trained Dia, a Labrador retriever, to find Scotch broom plants in two state parks 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City. The invasive shrub is widespread in the Pacific Northwest but new to New York, and land managers hope to eradicate it before it gets established. (AP PhotoSeth Wenig)

Dia, a Labrador retriever, uses her sense of smell to find Scotch broom, an invasive species, in Harriman State Park in Tuxedo, N.Y., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. The nonprofit New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has trained Dia to find Scotch broom plants in two state parks 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City. The invasive shrub is widespread in the Pacific Northwest but new to New York, and land managers hope to eradicate it before it gets established. (AP PhotoSeth Wenig)

Dia, a Labrador retriever, uses her sense of smell to find Scotch broom, an invasive species, in Harriman State Park in Tuxedo, N.Y., Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019. The nonprofit New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has trained Dia to find Scotch broom plants in two state parks 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City. The invasive shrub is widespread in the Pacific Northwest but new to New York, and land managers hope to eradicate it before it gets established. (AP PhotoSeth Wenig)