The Mequon Nature preserve has a new tool in the war on invasive species: A dedicated dog named Tilia.
Tilia is a one-year-old chocolate lab who is in training to sniff out a wide variety of things at the Mequon Nature Preserve.
She is the state's first on-staff conservation dog, essentially an employee with the ability to improve on human productivity and efficiency.
Kristin Gies, Mequon Nature Preserve’s executive director, believes her team is on the cutting edge.
“Oh gosh, every nature center, every DNR agent, everyone working in this field, in this discipline, they’re going to have a dog right by their side. Because a person’s going to be able to sight it and see some, but that dog is smelling the roots, it’s smelling the seeds, it’s smelling where it’s spreading. It’s incredible,” she said.
Tillia takes her work seriously. She’s considered on the job anytime she's in her uniform, a blue vest.
She can learn to target everything from teasel to wild parsnip, preventing it from overrunning more desirable native plants.
Even her handler, Cory Gritzmacher, the director of operations and restoration, is surprised at Tilia’s abilities.
“It’s amazing that that dog can go around and find one specific plant in a prairie that’s five, six feet tall and 40 different species,” he said.
Eventually, it won't be all work and no play as this beautiful one-year-old chocolate lab will also serve as an ambassador roaming around here greeting guests in between assignments.