He loves to work, has a goofball personality and a knack for detecting unusual smells like bear gall bladders, firearms, shell casings, zebra and quagga mussels dead or alive.
Meet K9 Major — the B.C. Conservation Officer Service’s (COS) second detection dog that’s been on the job since early December.
K9 Major—a 15 month old German Shephard— will primarily be on the road from late March to October, searching for invasive mussels on boats travelling through and into B.C.
He will also be assisting officers with a variety of other investigations by finding shell casings, poached animals or illegal firearms hidden inside vehicles during hunting season.
“When I put on his harness and show him his toy, that dog switches everything off and he’s zoned into work,” said his handler, Sgt. Cynthia Mann. Mann is based in Nelson and has been training with the dog since last October.
“I’ve had dogs my whole life so this was a great opportunity. I jumped at the chance to become a handler.”
The pair spent five weeks going through intense daily training sessions, and have continued searching for hidden objects placed around the office, open spaces or the warehouse where boats, sleds and trailers are stored.
Mann watches Major’s every move, looking for an indication he’s found an odour. When he does find what he’s looking for, Major is rewarded with his toy, causing a frenzy of excitement.
“He just goes nuts when he makes a find,” said Mann, who’s with Major 24/7, but keeps him in a crate at night. “He’s not my pet and that’s something as a handler you have to really keep in mind. We have a great time together and he gets a lot of affection, but he is a working dog.”
The B.C. COS leads enforcement operations for the Invasive Mussel Defence Program, which aims to prevent zebra and quagga mussels from entering the province.
Beginning in early April, Major and Kilo, the other service dog based in Kelowna, will be at 12 watercraft inspection stations set up at key points throughout the province.
In his first year, Kilo conducted more than 900 inspections and found invasive mussels on two vessels, proving a need for a second detection dog.
“These dogs are a valuable tool for detecting invasive mussels and other illegal wildlife items that are being transported throughout B.C,” said Doug Forsdick, chief conservation officer.