Help the Trail Conference Launch a Conservation Detection Dog Program

May 02, 2018
Linda Rohleder, Director of Land Stewardship
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Help the Trail Conference Launch a Conservation Detection Dog Program


By supporting working dog Willow, you'll allow us to be at the forefront of early invasive species detection.

The Trail Conference is the leader in regional efforts to combat invasive species. As such, we are always looking for the most effective ways to diminish the impact invasives are having on the environment. That’s why the Trail Conference is set to launch a Conservation Detection Dog program – the first of its kind in the Northeast.

Utilizing their exceptional sense of smell, dogs have been commonly used for search and rescue, as well as weapons and narcotics detection. These tracking and detection skills are now being used to protect our wild spaces. In 2010, the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management published a study that concluded trained dogs could smell and detect twice the number of invasive plants that humans could observe with their eyes.

In a metropolitan region highly prone to invasive infestations, early detection is a key component of invasive species management. The addition of a conservation detection dog to the Trail Conference’s Invasives Strike Force (ISF) will increase both the quality and quantity of our invasive surveys.

Willow, a year-old Labrador retriever, is a perfect fit for our Trail Family. She is being trained at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia and will learn to detect the presence of the invasive scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius). This species was chosen because it is targeted for eradication by the Lower Hudson Partnership for Invasive Species Management (PRISM), it is easy for the handler to identify, and it grows in fields among other plants, which can make it otherwise difficult to detect.

During searches with her handler Joshua Beese, Willow will wear a GPS collar to record the locations of her surveys. Once Willow detects the presence of a target species, an ISF team will be called in to manage it. Over time, we hope to train Willow to detect multiple species, including Southern pine beetle, an invasive insect that has been devastating pine forests, or spotted lanternfly, a threat to grape, apple, and hops crops.

Joshua, a canine handler for New Jersey Task Force 1 and FEMA searching for live victims and a volunteer at the Animal Care Centers of NYC, has already made several trips to visit and practice working with Willow. The only thing we need now is your support.

The Trail Conference needs to raise $10,500 to successfully launch this program. Thanks to a challenge grant from Paul and Joan Zofnass, every gift to the Conservation Detection Dog Fund will be matched at 50 cents on the dollar. So if you give $100, your gift automatically turns into $150. Funds will be used to make Willow a member of our Trail Family, cover her training, insurance, and care expenses.

Help bring Willow home and allow the Trail Conference’s Invasives Strike Force to be at the forefront of early detection. Support the Conservation Detection Dog Program today!