Alameda County added to its staff a new investigator to sniff out mosquitoes infected with West Nile Virus a lively Labrador named Buffy, the county's Mosquito Control District announced this morning. Abatement officials affectionately call her Buffy the Mosquito Slayer. The four-year-old dog detective picks up the scent of sitting water, a haven for the pesky bloodsuckers, in "covered utility vaults, crawl spaces of houses, and pipes half-hidden in hillsides," according to an article today in the Contra Costa Times. Normally, it's up to a human with a flashlight and a portable lab kit.
Buffy is one of two Bay Area dogs trained to combat the virus, the article reported. The two dogs were trained during the past two years to pick up the scent of dirty water, which they indicate they've found by sitting. Dog handlers walk the dogs from house to house, saving time by skipping residences the dogs ignore.
Santa Clara County is the only other California county to test the waters, so to speak, by enlisting dogs to its abatement team.
Scent-savvy canines are just one of several animal-assisted methods Bay Area vector control districts use to curb the spread of the virus. The Alameda County Mosquito Control District also employs "sentinel" chickens in and around Fremont, Mountain House, and Livermore to spot the disease. Abatement folks let blood from the chicken combs and test it for virus antibodies.
Abatement districts statewide also offer larvae-preying mosquitofish for free to businesses and homeowners with sitting pools or ponds.