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Dog helps sniff out invasive ants on California island

By: The Associated Press
September 9, 2017 Updated: September 9, 2017 at 8:44 am
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In this June 21, 2017, provided by The Nature Conservancy photo shows Ky Zimmerman and his labrador Tobias search for nests of Argentine ants on Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Southern California. The dog is wearing a mask is to protect from foxtails, a grass seed that can get into his eyes, nose or mouth. Tobias searches for nests of the invasive species of ants that threatened the ecosystem after being introduced decades ago. (Gary Andrew/The Nature Conservancy via AP)

LOS ANGELES — Scientists assessing efforts to eradicate invasive ants on the Channel Islands off California have enlisted a four-legged expert to sniff out the destructive insects.

A yellow Labrador named Tobias has lived for months with a handler on Santa Cruz Island. The specially-trained dog keeps its snout to the ground, searching for nests of Argentine ants that threatened the ecosystem after being introduced decades ago.

Christina Boser, an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy, said Tuesday that no new nests have been found — one sign that a project started in 2009 to wipe out the unwanted ants is successful.

Boser says in the absence of new nests, researchers have kept a few old nests around to give Tobias something to sniff out so the dog can get its reward: a favorite ball.

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