Jackson, WY – Quagga mussel veligers (microscopic juvenile quagga mussels) are on the move and have been detected in Deer Creek Reservoir in north-central Utah. Soon after, a single zebra mussel was found in South Dakota at a boat dock in Lewis & Clark Lake and a quagga mussel was found in Angostura Reservoir in southwestern South Dakota. They are wandering uncomfortably close to our Wyoming borders.
The zebra and quagga mussels are believed to have been transported by a recreational boat from the heavily infested waters of the Lower Colorado River system. Wyoming’s mostly pristine waters have very few aquatic invaders and professionals in the invasive species field are working hard to prevent their introduction through educational efforts and port of entry boat inspection stations administered by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Drain, Clean, Dry program.
Why are these critters such a concern? By filtering plankton out of the water, invasive mussels deprive native species of a food source critical for survival. This competition at the bottom of the food chain, in turn negatively affects recreational fishing. Further, zebra and quagga mussels attach to hard surfaces, clogging water intake structures such as municipal water systems, hydroelectric power, irrigation systems and even your boats cooling system. The increase in maintenance costs for water treatment and power generation facilities can easily reach into millions of dollars. Lastly, shorelines are degraded for recreational and other purposes by these species due to a foul odor that is produced by their decay and the presence of sharp edges that can cut skin.
Quagga and zebra mussels are not the only invasive species that wander. Invasive species can be any introduced plant, pathogen, insect, or other critter that doesn’t belong to an ecosystem but once it arrives wreaks havoc by transforming ecosystem function. With Spring Break right around the corner many folks will be heading to warmer climates to play in the sun. There are three simple words to keep in mind as you venture into the great outdoors – Play, Clean, Go. “Protecting Wyoming from invasive species is Wyoming Weed & Pest Council 7575 S. Hwy 89 Jackson, Wyoming 83001 (307) 733-8419 something we can all do. The simple act of cleaning your gear, clothing, pets and shoes before and after visiting a location can help prevent the spread of invasives,” states Erika Edmiston, Wyoming Weed and Pest Council Education Committee Chair. “National Invasive Species Awareness Week (February 22-28) is the perfect time to highlight the importance of invasive species prevention approaches and remind the public that each and every one of us can help keep Wyoming wonderful.”
Taking to the water? You can still apply the Play, Clean, Go concept by remembering to Drain, Clean, Dry your boat and all types of recreational gear that comes into contact with the water to prevent mussels from hitching a ride back home with you. For more information visit wyoweed.org and Stop Invasive Species In Your Tracks!