ARDEN HILLS, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Minnesota is enlisting dogs in the battle to prevent the spread of the emerald ash borer.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture hopes trained sniffer dogs can become a new line of defense against the invasive pests, which threaten ash trees across the state and across the country.

The department is partnering with Working Dogs for Conservation, which has experience in detecting invasive species and has found encouraging results in training dogs to find ash wood material and emerald ash borers.

Liz Erickson of the Agricultural Department says it’s never been done before.

“These dogs, sniffing out ash and the Emerald Ash Borer, are the first of their kind,” said Erickson. “Minnesota is the first state to try this out.”

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Steve Murphy Reports

Officials demonstrated the dogs’ capabilities at the Ramsey County compost site in Arden Hills on Tuesday, and said the dogs may be ready to start sniffing mulch piles, yard waste sites and commercial vehicles as early as July.

If it works, the two labs and two German Shepherds may be hired by other states to help battle the ash borer.

The beetles were first detected in Minnesota in St. Paul in 2009. Four counties are under emerald ash borer quarantines: Houston, Winona, Hennepin and Ramsey.

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