How Border Collies Ward Off E. Coli

Researchers train them to keep gulls off beaches

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted May 20, 2014 4:07 PM CDT

(Newser) – A new defense against the nastiness of an E. coli infection during summer has four legs and a wagging tail. Researchers at Central Michigan University trained border collies to keep seagulls away from Lake Michigan beaches, a feat that in turn reduced the amount of infected droppings from the birds, reports the Los Angeles Times. The scientists tried the trick at various stretches of beach during the summers of 2012 and 2013, and subsequent measurements of bacteria showed significant drops in the patrolled areas.

"They control very well," says a researcher on the project, the results of which were presented at a meeting this week of the American Society of Microbiology. "You just kind of point and say ‘go’ and they take off. Then they chase away the gulls and you whistle them back." Ah, but what about the dogs themselves answering nature's call on the beach? Not to worry, reports the BBC. The smart pooches generally took care of business before reporting for their beach work, and handlers were there to scoop on the rare occasions that didn't work.

File photo of a border collie at the beach.   (Shutterstock)
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