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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Dogs' environmental role hailed

Published 19/05/2014 | 17:42

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Seagulls could be policed by sheep dogs in a bid to protect the environment.

Patrolling sheep dogs may be one way to keep recreational beaches clear of bacteria-spreading seagulls, a study has shown.

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Scientists in the US tested the effectiveness of border collies in reducing gull congregation and the abundance of escherichia coli (E. coli) bugs in the sand.

Sections of beach 200 metres long were randomly assigned to dog patrols at the start of the summer season in 2012 and 2013 while other stretches of beach were left alone.

The number of gulls in each stretch of beach was recorded and samples of beach water and sand tested for E. coli once a week.

Samples taken from beaches where the dogs had chased away the gulls were found to have significantly lower E. coli counts.

"Border collies are intelligent dogs that love to work and could be used by beach managers as part of a comprehensive management strategy to reduce bacterial contamination at public beaches," said researcher Elizabeth Alm, from Central Michigan University.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Boston.

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