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Meet Breeze: new dog on bird patrol at Cannelton Locks, Dam

Published Sept. 20, 2018

It's a 'ruff' job, but someone has to do it. 

Rebecca Gibson from Flyaway Geese, an organization providing professional bird management by dog deterence, delivered Breeze, a blue merle smooth-coated border collie trained to deter birds, to Cannelton Locks and Dam in Cannelton, Indiana, Sept. 18, 2018. 

Breeze will be two years old in January and started her training at eight months old on a farm in North Carolina. She recently gave birth to her first liter of puppies. 

 “Breeze is a fully-trained bird control dog, so we are excited for what she is going to do out here,” Gibson said. “It should be a lot of fun for these guys and a ton of fun for her.”

The team will be assessing Breeze for the next three months to determine her effectiveness of deterring vultures which are eating away the expansion joints on the dam. The vultures are most problematic for the facility when drift accumulates on the dam.  

“As soon as we replace the expansion joints, the vultures tear them right back out,” said Larry Dunning, Cannelton Locks and Dam lockmaster. “We are hoping that if the dog works and the vultures stay away, we will be able to replace all the expansion joints next summer.”

Breeze will also be used to deter the pigeons and geese that continuously cover the project site with their defecation causing health hazards to the employees and visitors. 

On May 23, 2018, Danielle D’Amato, Engineer Research and Development Center research biologist, came to consult, advise staff and assess the damage and hazards posed by birds. D’Amato visited field sites to determine suitability for using and housing a dog, and educated the lockmasters and employees on the benefits of using dogs to deter birds. It was concluded that several species of birds have created an unhealthy and unsightly working environment and have damaged USACE facilities. 

Nuisance bird behavior is costly to the projects, consuming funding and labor hours, and using dogs like USACE’s first dam dog, Ellie, to deter birds has already proved successful at projects in the Tulsa and Chicago districts. Dogs are natural predators whose presence can be a deterrent to birds. The dogs are trained to actively deter birds by patrolling specific areas of a project. Using a dog can be substantially less costly than conventional deterrence methods like baiting or trapping.

“This will be the second dog that the Corps of Engineers has,” said Todd Kimery Louisville District assistant operations manager. “Right now the initial thought is that we would split her time between two locks and dams since the facilities are close in distance.”

Other locks and dams with bird issues are John T. Myers, Mt. Vernon, Indiana; Markland, Warsaw, Kentucky and McAlpine, Louisville, Kentucky.