Skip to main content

More of the fight against zebra mussels is going to the dogs

You've heard of drug-sniffing dogs. How about zebra mussel-sniffing ones?

Expect an uptick in the state budget for dog treats.

With Minnesota's walleye fishing opener around the corner, some new inspectors are on board to check for invasive species – and they're of the K9 variety.

The Department of Natural Resources introduced two new officers Thursday who are specially trained to find zebra mussels on boats or trailers and keep them from spreading to more Minnesota lakes.

Newcomers Shelby and Storm, both German shorthair pointers, join Brady and Reggie to double the number of K9s looking for invasive stowaways.

Jason Beckmann, the K9 unit coordinator, tells MPR News the dogs can locate mussels that are too small or too hidden for human inspectors to find. "They can be up inside of motors, in bilges, live wells, things like that, that an inspector might not be able to see. And a dog can still smell that," Beckmann says.

When boating season ends, Shelby and Storm – like the DNR's other K9s – will sniff out poached animals and fish, recover evidence, protect officers, and help find missing people.

The Zebra Mussel fight

K9s are just part of the strategy to limit the spread of zebra mussels in Minnesota's lakes and rivers.

The DNR says there are also more boat inspectors trained by the agency, more decontamination sites around the state, and they're getting the public more involved in preventing the spread.

The DNR says everyone who goes boating is legally required to help in three ways:

  • Clean all the plants and gunk off your boat, motor, and trailer when you leave a lake
  • Drain all the water out of your boat and keep the drain plug out while traveling
  • Dispose of any leftover bait in the trash, not in the lake

Zebra mussels arrived in North America nearly 30 years ago in ballast water from Great Lakes ships that had crossed the Atlantic. They have no predators here and they reproduce really fast, suffocating native mussels and taking food and space away from other underwater creatures.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says parts of the Mississippi River have 100,000 zebra mussels per square yard and they sometimes clog water pipes.

More than 2,000 of Minnesota's lakes and rivers are infested with zebra mussels (find a list of them here) but the DNR notes that's still only 2 percent of the state's waterways.

Next Up

police tape

3 at trauma centers in critical condition after rural MN attack

Two victims and the alleged attacker are in critical condition.

grinch neighbor

Neighborhood 'grinch' sends letter to Burnsville family over holiday lights

A Burnsville family's holiday decorations were the subject of an anonymous complaint.


Anthropologie shutters Grand Avenue store, opening planned for Rosedale Center

The popular holiday shopping weekend marked the last for customers of the Grand Avenue store.

hospital, emergency room

Woman found on side of highway after hit-and-run

The 41-year-old was airlifted to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Jorden Nicole Borders

Charges: Minnesota woman tortured her kids, removed boy's blood

Warning: This story contains upsetting content.

first snow

Will narrow band of 6+ inches of snow hit Twin Cities Tuesday?

The NWS says a band of 6+ inches is looking likely. It's now a matter of where.


Siblings, ages 19 and 14, killed in crash on icy MN highway

The crash happened around 1:15 a.m. Saturday in Carlton County.

Nicholas Kraus

Man sentenced for fatally striking woman during Uptown protest

Nicholas Kraus, 36, of St. Paul drove into a protest in Uptown last year, killing Deona Marie Knajdek.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Fleeing suspect crashes into vehicle in Woodbury, 2 injured

The crash occurred Friday afternoon after a pursuit with Woodbury police.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 2.34.44 PM

Yes, that's MN native Jenny Taft in a State Farm commercial

Jenny Taft got her broadcasting career started in Minneapolis in 2011.

crime scene tape - police tape

23-year-old woman critical after shooting in Plymouth

A 23-year-old woman was shot Friday night in Plymouth.

white Christmas

2 MN towns among most 'magical' winter locations in the country

The list was compiled by Trips Discover and published earlier this month.


Zebra mussels pesticide shows promise in small test

The Department of Natural Resources says there's hope that a chemical might help stop the spread of the invasive aquatic species that is fast spreading in Minnesota lakes. The DNR treated Rose Lake in Otter Tail County last fall, and two divers who scoured the lake this week did not find any zebra mussels.

Turkey in the straw? No, this one was on the couch

A Twin Cities couple came home to find a wild turkey had broken in.

Turkey in the straw? No, this one was on the couch

A Twin Cities couple came home to find a wild turkey had broken in.

DNR to try pesticide on invasive zebra mussels

State officials will take the rare step of using a pesticide to try and curtail a zebra mussel infestation in a western Minnesota lake. The Pioneer Press says the chemical might be effective if the mussels haven't spread from a contained area. Local officials, though, say the DNR is not responding effectively to stop the destructive mollusks.

Zebra mussel found in Minneapolis' Chain of Lakes

The invasive species was also found in Lakeville.

Zebra mussels spread quickly in Lake Minnetonka

Zebra mussels were first found in Lake Minnetonka in 2010, and the invasive species has already infested the waters of the metro-area lake, KARE 11 reports. The shelled pests have moved further and become more dense, and now inhabit roughly 80 to 90 percent of the lake, one expert says. KARE's Belinda Jensen takes a dive and offers this up-close look at the worsening problem.