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 from Victoria. 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


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Dogs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5 million for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

Victims tell of abuse at hands of Victoria substitute teacher

Harry Charles Sadd pleaded guilty to eight charges that took place between 1970 to 1982

2020 Budget: ICBC ‘dumpster fire’ to turn into $86M surplus, NDP say

ICBC operating with $91-million deficit for 2019-2020 fiscal year

Resident mistakes screaming teens’ late-night plunge for an emergency

Big week for Oak Bay Police who respond to rampant theft in Oak Bay, host Polar Plunge

Victoria budtenders become first private cannabis workers to unionize in Canada

Two of seven Clarity Cannabis storefronts vote to join UFCW 1518 union

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support the proposed changes for ICBC?

Tuesday’s provincial budget predicted a shift from shortfall to surplus in wake… Continue reading

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Most Read