Dashing dogs hunt hawkweed

Released 16/03/2016

Some clever canines are lending a hand, or nose, to help the ACT Parks and Conservation Service to find and control mouse-ear hawkweed, an invasive weed species which has been found in the ACT.

“The animals are specially trained weed detection dogs that can smell out hawkweed and lead rangers to possible infested sites,” Parks and Conservation Regional Manager,
Brett McNamara, said.

“Mouse-ear hawkweed is a highly invasive plant species which poses a major threat to biodiversity in conservation areas and native grasslands and can also kill pasture grasses. It displaces native plants and pasture grasses by forming dense mats which smother other vegetation.

“The weed kills surrounding vegetation by releasing toxic levels of aluminium from the soil. It is a small invader but packs a powerful punch, so it is important to eradicate it as soon as it is spotted.

“So far there has only been one record of mouse-ear hawkweed in the ACT at Nursery Swamp in Namadgi National Park. The infestation was reported by a local bushwalker, allowing rangers to quickly control the weed. These detection dogs will focus on this area to ensure the weed has been controlled.

“This operation will also put us on the front foot in terms of being prepared for any possible outbreak of mouse ear-hawkweed in other areas of the ACT.

“Last year two species of hawkweed, orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) and mouse-ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella) were declared as high risk pest species in the ACT. In short, this means all infestations must be reported and controlled and the supply and propagation of the plant is prohibited in the ACT.

“The ACT Government has also previously sent staff to assist in hawkweed control operations in Kosciuszko National Park to manage these noxious weeds.

“Bushwalkers are asked to keep and eye out for weed, which has similar flowers to the common dandelion, but has reddish stripes on the underside of the petals. The leaves are very hairy and it forms distinctive large mats, killing the surrounding grass.”

- Statement ends -

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