Dogs can be fine companions on a drift boat, and now they are being trained to sniff out aquatic invasive species, too. Zooma, however, pictured here, is better at finding lunch than zebra mussels. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

A well-behaved dog of a certain size can be a welcome companion on a fishing trip, helping keep an eye out for rising trout.

Now they’re working to protect fisheries too. 

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are using specially trained  dogs to check boats for aquatic invasive species. In partnership with Working Dogs for Conservation, the parks will put dogs Tobias and Jax to work sniffing out zebra and quagga mussels and participating in public events.

Aquatic invasive species can cause havoc to native ecosystems, damage equipment and harm local economies. The parks, as well as the state of Wyoming, seek to keep them from being inadvertently introduced to lakes, creeks and rivers and have extensive programs, now including Tobias and Jax, to keep area waters uninfested.

Wyoming’s program requires all boaters to buy an AIS sticker before launching, a program that educates those on the water about the invaders and also helps fund inspection stations. Wyoming Game and Fish Department wardens and technicians have been busy examining watercraft at checkpoints and elsewhere and have issued several citations this year.

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Between July 3-5, Game and Fish inspected 850 watercraft, 129 of which came from states with known infestations. Boaters are urged to clean, drain and dry their boats, rafts and other watercraft.

Watchdog Zooma, above, travels with her auntie Linda Sternberg in a drift boat stickered with a 2019 AIS decal as required in Wyoming. Zooma loves to swim but is much better at finding chicken bones than mussels.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at or (307)...

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