South West Water is utilising highly-trained conservation detection dogs to find invasive signal crayfish in Devon.
The invasive American signal crayfish can have a devastating impact on native wildlife, eating a wide range of invertebrates and small fish, and carrying crayfish plague that destroys our native white clawed crayfish population.
South West Water and South West Lakes have teamed up with Sequor Ecology Detection Dogs as part of an ongoing large scale control programme which started last autumn to remove American signal crayfish from Plymouth’s Burrator Reservoir.
As part of the programme, 200 traps were placed at the reservoir over a three-week period, catching around 6,000 invasive crayfish.
To support this work, two specially trained dogs – Sid, an eight-year-old black Labrador and River, a three-year-old Cocker Spaniel– have been used to search areas of habitat suitable for crayfish, such as along riverbanks or edges of waterbodies.
The dogs search for live and dead crayfish to identify presence or likely absence of the species so qualified ecologists can confirm and report the findings to highlight areas for future trapping.
South West Water’s Biosecurity and Invasives Manager, Kate Hills, said: “Invasive non-native species are one of the top five threats to biodiversity and American Signal Crayfish are recognised as one of the worst.
“This species is currently known to be present in just two of our 21 reservoirs across Devon and Cornwall and by using dogs to search for them, alongside our traditional methods, we can cover a wider area much faster than people can and detect crayfish where there are only limited signs.
Haleema Kara, Dog Handler at Sequor Ecology Detection Dogs, said: Sid and River are specially trained to identify areas of potential crayfish activity. The dogs were tested in trials prior to operational searches.”
Lucy Wilde, Dog Handler at Sequor Ecology Detection Dogs, said: “The early identification from the dogs allows us to quickly pinpoint areas where traps can be laid, helping to minimise the impact of the species on the environment”
South West Water is asking anyone who sees an American Signal Crayfish at one of its reservoirs to report the sighting by emailing Invasives@SWLakestrust.org.uk
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