Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and the Milton CHEER Center will present Margaret “Marnie” Pepper, project leader for the Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Project, for a lecture at 7 p.m., Tuesday, July 9.
Pepper, a wildlife biologist, and certified agricultural canine handler and field trainer, will speak about the detector dogs that helped save Eastern Shore marshes.
Nutria are rodents from South America that can grow to 15 pounds; they were introduced to the Eastern Shore of Maryland nearly 70 years ago because of their luxurious fur. However, they ended up wreaking havoc in the Chesapeake Bay marshes, particularly near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Md. As the invasive nutria consumed marsh grasses and sedges, the freshwater marshes in Dorchester County began to disappear at an alarming rate. Over the years, the Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. wildlife services have used various nutria detection techniques to protect the marshes, including the detector dog program.
Pepper will use video and photographs to tell the story of how the dogs are selected and trained to detect nutria scat, how the idea came about and how the program was developed. Although the dogs will not be present, the story of how they and their trainers continue to help preserve Delmarva’s wetlands is a unique and important one.
The event will take place at the Milton CHEER Center, 24855 Broadkill Road in Milton, and is open to the public with no reservations necessary.