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Meet Berty: Yolo County's first agriculture detector dog sniffing out trouble that could decimate crops

Meet the Yolo County agricultural department's new detector dog
Meet the Yolo County agricultural department's new detector dog 02:48

WOODLAND -- A 2-year-old Labrador Retriever is doing a job only a handful of dogs can do in the state of California. 

Berty is the first detector dog for the Yolo County department of agriculture, making the county only the 11th in the state to have one of these working dogs. 

"I'm always trying not to be outsmarted by Bert. She is super smart," said her handler, Chris Tyler. 

Berty's job is to sniff out packages shipped into the area; not looking for treats, but instead for pesky problems to protect our local agriculture. 

Her nose knows how to hunt down the seemingly ordinary.

"She's looking for fruits, vegetables, seeds, bulbs, live animals, live fish, cut flowers, plants," said Tyler. 

She can find in just seconds what humans cannot thanks to her powerful and finely tuned sense of smell. 

Berty was trained by the United States Department of Agriculture alongside Tyler, who keeps the expert tracker on track. 

"She's found everything from jack fruit from Mexico on down to Washington cherries," said Tyler. "She knows to differentiate that stuff from grandma's cookies she sent you for graduation or the bread from the bakery in New York City. She knows enough to not alert on those and just stay on target."  

The pup pokes through package after package at USPS, UPS and FedEx shipment centers in the area. 

She was sent to Yolo County last month as one of the state's largest UPS package processing centers is in West Sacramento. The USDA likes to focus the dogs in areas near high-volume facilities. 

When Berty smells what she's trained to sniff out, she alerts her handler by scratching at the box. 

"An inspector will then take the box, open it and make sure what we found doesn't contain a disease, a pest, weed or anything that could be harmful if it got out," said Tyler. "We've found Caribbean fruit fly shipped from Florida on numerous occasions. This is something we don't want here." 

Berty is now the first line of defense in Yolo County, keeping out any non-native threat that could wreak havoc on California crops. 

"So we could be talking about billions of dollars lost in a fight with an insect that we could have stopped," said Tyler. 

Yolo County Ag Commissioner Humberto Izquierdo is happy to have Berty on board. 

"Statistically, we have found a lot of fruit that comes from another state, out of the country, a territory like Puerto Rico, can bring pests that we don't have in California," said Izquierdo.

The state produces 70 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables and exports food to a variety of countries. 

If a crop were decimated in California by a pest or disease, it would impact the world. 

"California has been geographically isolated because we have the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. We have this great Mediterranean climate where we can pretty much grow anything in the world. It's made us a very important agricultural producer for the U.S. and the world. So we are trying to protect that," said Izquierdo. 

So you can thank this wag-riculture expert and her nosy nose for helping keep your food on the table.

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