It has been a year since Breeze, a blue merle smooth coated border collie trained to deter birds, arrived at Cannelton Locks and Dam in Cannelton, Ind., and she continues to be an energetic and hardworking member of the Louisville District team.
“Breeze is doing great,” said Larry Dunning, Cannelton Locks and Dam lockmaster. “She is smart and very good at her job.”
The project used to have problems with nuisance bird behavior, which can be costly to projects, consuming funding and labor hours. Breeze was brought on in September 2018 to deter vultures, which were eating away the expansion joints on the dam.
“As soon as we would replace the expansion joints, the vultures would tear them right back out,” Dunning said.
She is also used to scare away pigeons and geese that often covered the site in bird droppings causing health hazards to the employees and visitors. Breeze will be three years old in January, and the staff at Cannleton enjoys her being around.
“I have to remind the guys that she is a working dog and not a pet,” Dunning said.
Dunning is her primary caretaker. Breeze stays at the facility most nights except for the few times a month when Dunning takes her home to rest and bathe her. He also takes her in for routine veterinarian checkups; however, the Louisville District covers the cost of her food and veterinary appointments.
“She works everyday on the dam,” Dunning said. “She is let out to run around on the dam for at least 30 minutes, up to three times a day to keep the birds away.”
Dogs are natural predators whose presence can be a deterrent to birds. Dogs like Breeze are trained to actively discourage birds by patrolling specific areas of a project. Using a dog can be substantially less costly than conventional deterrence methods like baiting or trapping.
Dunning can tell a big difference in the presence of birds around the facility since Breeze’s arrival. He said there is about a 90 percent difference, and the birds have gotten to a point where they see her, and they leave.
“She doesn’t bark at them; she uses her eyes,” Dunning said. “She remembers where she last saw them and goes to those areas first.”
Breeze has also been to Newburgh Locks and Dam in Newburgh, Ind., and J.T. Myers Locks and Dam in Mount Vernon, Ind., to help frighten off the birds.
“Breeze did excellent,” said Jerry Edwards, Newburgh Locks and Dam lockmaster. “As soon as she spotted them she was on her game. The geese had been here for about three days in a row, but they haven’t been back since.”
Breeze is the second dog within the Army Corps of Engineers. The Tulsa, Okla., and Chicago districts share a dog named Ellie, who is also used in bird prevention.