Border Collies Keep Seagulls – and Bacteria – Away from Beaches

Just in time for summer beach season, these happy herders are helping to keep humans safe.

Border Collies: They’re herders, they’re trick performers, they’re guide dogs. Now, Border Collies have another job to add to their resumes: Bacteria warriors.

Researchers from Central Michigan University have found that these hard-working herding dogs are very effective at reducing the amount of E. coli bacteria in the sand at beaches by keeping away seagulls that carry that bacteria. Seagull droppings in beach water can lead to swim advisories and beach closings due to E. coli, which can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea in humans.

The study, which was published at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology,  had Border Collies patrol beaches along Lake Michigan during the summers of 2012 and 2013. The beaches where Border Collies patrolled had significantly lower E. coli counts than beaches that didn’t see doggie patrols.

Known for their biddability and herding skills, Border Collies were a natural choice to use in the experiment.

“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,” says Elizabeth Alm, one of the researchers of the study and a microbiologist at Central Michigan University.

Border Collie. Photo by Elizabeth Alm.

Border Collies are also perfect for the study because they resemble coyotes, the gulls’ only natural real predator, Alm told the Los Angeles Times. Border Collies’ chasing and stalking instincts, as well as their love for work, make them them ideal canine candidates. Border Collies are also able to shoo away the birds without harming them or catching them.

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