Dogs Team Up With Humans To Find Dread Dyer's Woad

Weed sniffing mutts provide canine herbicide pack.

Published on: Nov 22, 2012

Dogs that sniff out undesirable weeds are on the trail of Dyer's woad in Montana.

Pooches like Wibaux the Lab scramble up Montana mountains to catch the scent of the noxious weeds so they can be removed before they spread.

Once located, Wibaux circles the weed like a hunting dog on a dead duck and barks to alert her human companions that she has once again found a dread Dyer's, so named for the fact it was used by pioneers as a source of dye.

But the woad is now attacking pastures and rangelands of Montana with an attractive presence that hides its tendency to choke out more valuable vegetation.

With a "Good Dog!" for a job well done, weed-hunter Deb Tirmenstein hands the eager Wibaux a coveted treat.

Seamus, a shelter mutt, plays with weed hunter Aimee Hurt, director of operations of Working Dogs for Conservation, as part of its training to find Dyers woad (in pot to right).
Seamus, a shelter mutt, plays with weed hunter Aimee Hurt, director of operations of Working Dogs for Conservation, as part of its training to find Dyer's woad (in pot to right).

Then she marks the location of the find on her GPS to return later with a spray to take out the undesirable plants.

It is a project which grew from Montana State University research that proves dogs are good weed finders. A goal of the Dyer's woad study is to eradicate it from Montana via dogs and their two-legged companions

Amber Burch, assistant wed coordinator for Beaverhead County and a coordinator of a statewide effort  against woad, says the weed is native to Russia and was once used as a source of blue dye and  medications.

The first recorded Montana sighting was in 1934, and it is classified as a Priority 1B Noxious Weed in the state, akin to being on the Most Wanted list from the FBI.

A single plant can grow four inches a week and produce 10,000 seeds, notes Burch. Roots can drill five feet into the ground. On top of the soil surface, they compete with native plants and can overrun pastures and wildlife habitat.