Fleka is a trained truffle hunter, and when her vest is on she knows it’s time to work. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

WATCH: Meet Victoria’s truffle-hunting wonder dog, Fleka

The black Labrador retriever is trained to find the evasive and delicious mushrooms

Fleka is a black Labrador retriever. Her name comes from the Czech word ‘Fleku,’ which roughly translates into ‘spot.’ Besides the translation coinciding with the classic English name for dogs, Fleka lives up to her title: she’s spot on when it comes to hunting truffles.

Pigs used to be the go-to animal for hunting the lucrative and delicious mushrooms, which grow underground at the root of trees, but recently dogs have become a favoured option.

While Fleka’s owner, Thomas Maler, always liked the taste of truffles, he never thought to hunt for them until a “serendipitous” trip two years ago.

He had a friend who owns a truffle dog that was going to attend the Oregon Truffle Festival. The friend invited Maler to come along to watch her dog work with truffle dog trainer Kelly Slocum. Maler had left Fleka in the car to avoid disrupting the lesson, but that quickly changed.

“She also knew I had a black Lab, and all of her truffle dogs are black Labs,” Maler said. “She said bring Fleka back… After 10 minutes she said, ‘You should train that dog because she has great potential.’”

READ MORE: Fungi expert gives tips on finding truffles on Vancouver Island

Maler came home with specific instructions and truffle targets – a small plastic container filled with truffles samples – to practise with. He kept in touch with Slocum and soon saw results.

“It was absolutely amazing, in about a couple months she was working perfectly,” Maler said.

The duo started working within the house before moving to the backyard– where they still train twice per week– and then to local forests.

ALSO READ: World’s most poisonous mushroom spreading in B.C.

“She got two wild truffles last year,” Maler said, adding that she also helped local cultivators find truffles at their orchard. “But this year we found what we’re pretty sure is an Oregon white truffle in a park near me.”

The find is a significant discovery because Fleka found the truffle at the roots of a deciduous tree, when Oregon white truffles are known to only grow under Douglas firs.

Maler sent the truffle to retired mycology researcher Shannon Berch for confirmation. She is currently running a DNA analysis on the specimen, but visually they are 99 per cent sure they are right.

In the meantime, whenever Maler finds truffles locally, he opts to give them to a couple of his friends who own upscale restaurants in the Capital Region.

“I would trade, I wouldn’t sell them,” he said with a laugh. “I trade it for credits for food, and eat my way through.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

 

Fleka is a trained truffle hunter, and when her vest is on she knows it’s time to work. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Just Posted

VIDEO: Scorpion found in B.C. woman’s kitchen finds new home in Victoria

The Victoria Bug Zoo welcomed the scorpion on Saturday

Islander reaches Everest summit

Clayton Matthews’ team got to the top of the world last week

Proctor family brought back to ‘emotional state’ as her killer applies for day parole

Family member says life is a ‘roller coaster’ since Langford teen’s murder

Robert Barron column: Respect needed for 911 program

The dispatcher said she would send a police unit to my home

Increased rental construction boosts housing starts across Vancouver Island

Rest of the Vancouver Island experiencing spillover effect from Greater Victoria

Rescuers finally persuade Eiffel Tower climber to come down

The official said the man was ‘under control and out of danger’ on Monday night

Justin Trudeau credits immigration for Canada’s growing tech sector

Trudeau stressed that Canada has become a major source of talent for tech all over the world

Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

The fund is supposed to back experiences that show off Canada’s strengths

Woman charged in Saanichton stabbing

One man treated for injuries, released from hospital following Friday assault

Florida woman celebrated as eight millionth passenger to Victoria’s cruise ship terminal

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority marks the occasion with Lekwungen Dancers, gifts, tours

Mamma Mia! poised to be biggest Chemainus Theatre show ever

Plenty of buzz as Island dinner theatre schedules ABBA-fueled romp

New book from Island author details social history of the E&N railway

Along the E&N tells the story of 32 establishments from Esquimalt to Campbell River.

Canadian Music Hall of Famer Steven Page to play Parksville

Barenaked Ladies co-founder performs at Knox United Church on June 1

Most Read