K9 Officer Major has joined the B.C. Conservation Officer Service’s Invasive Mussel Defence to protect lakes in the Okanagan and B.C. Photo: Mackenzie Britton/Capital News

K9 officer joins fight against invasive mussels in Okanagan lakes

Major joins the provincial government’s Invasive Mussel Defence Program’s 5th year

Invasive mussel species have not yet reached British Columbia’s lakes and the provincial government is ensuring they stay out of B.C. waters with help from an additional four-legged conservation officer.

Environment Minister George Heyman was in West Kelowna on Friday afternoon to detail the government’s 2019 Invasive Mussel Defence Program and introduce B.C. conservation officer K9 Major.

“British Columbians depend on our clean waterways for fishing, recreation and tourism. Zebra and quagga mussels pose a serious threat to these activities, as well as to our fish populations and sensitive ecosystems,” Heyman said.

“With the addition of a second detection dog, we will be able to conduct more inspections to prevent these destructive species from entering our province.”

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Quagga and zebra mussels have been found in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, as well as dozens of states in the United States. From now until late October 2019, inspectors with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS) will be at 12 inspection stations throughout the province, educating the public about invasive mussels and checking boats travelling into and through B.C. before they enter the water.

The COS leads the enforcement of the Invasive Mussel Defence Program with 64 inspectors and Major, the COS’s second detection dog.

This will be the first season for Major and his handler Sgt. Cynthia Mann, who will join veteran detection dog Kilo. Kilo conducted more than 900 inspections and detected invasive mussels on two boats in his first year. Major and Kilo will primarily work at inspection stations, they are also trained in detecting firearms, bear parts and more.

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Heyman ensured continued program funding from the provincial government on Friday, as the 2019 program includes more inspections and more opportunities to generate public awareness.

Almost $4 million is funded towards the program every year with funds coming from BC Hydro, Columbia Power and FortisBC.

More information on the Invasive Mussel Defence Program can be found at gov.bc.ca.

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