DNR targets zebra mussels in county [UPDATED]Published 10:53am Thursday, April 21, 2011 Updated 10:53am Thursday, April 21, 2011
Though snow may still be falling, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources knows that boating season is around the corner.
The Otter Tail County DNR office in Fergus Falls is no exception, and it is already gearing up to prevent the spread of invasive species throughout the county’s many lakes.
While boat inspectors will not be out in full force until mid-to-late May, the DNR is already in hiring mode, looking for interns to check out boats and make sure that they are following the guidelines to prevent the spread of invasives.
“We’re really trying to focus mainly on the accesses that are giving us the biggest bang for our buck,” said Nathan Olson, a local DNR invasive species specialist.
That means that the department’s three to five inspectors in Otter Tail County will primarily focus on high-traffic, high-risk lakes, including the large Pelican Lake, which is already infested by zebra mussels, and Otter Tail Lake, which is not infested but is a high traffic zone.
“The biggest (invasive species) we’re dealing with right now is the zebra mussel, which is still contained up around Pelican Lake,” said Olson.
Other Otter Tail County lakes listed as infested by zebra mussels include Little Pelican, Bass, Fish, Lizzie, Crystal and Prairie. While evidence of zebra mussels has not been found in Little Pelican, Crystal or Prairie, Olson said that the lakes are listed as infested because of the easy and frequent flow of water between those lakes and lakes where zebra mussels are known to be.
Zebra mussels, which originated in the Black and Caspian seas in Europe and Asia, are distinguishable from other local mussels because they are smaller and have a distinctive yellow and brown banding pattern on their shells.
The mussels are pests because they have no natural predators in Minnesota lakes, causing them to crowd out native mussels and overpopulate, clinging to any hard surface under the water. Heavily infested lakes can have problems with sharp mussels covering the lake floor and jamming up water pipes.
Buck Lake, which straddles Otter Tail and Becker counties, also has a problem with flowering rush, a nuisance invasive species plant.
Olson said a measure that went into effect in July of last year could help keep the spread of invasives down.
“It doesn’t matter what lake you leave in Minnesota, or any river for that matter, you have to be pulling your drain plug and draining your boat,” he said.
When a boater leaves a body of water with his or her boat, said Olson, he should do three things: clean, drain, and dry.
“First, you’re going to clean anything that’s attached (to the boat),” he said, including plants. Mussels and other invasive species can tag along by hooking up to a boat or to something else that is stuck on a boat.
After that, Olson explained, “Drain all the water that you can. Do anything you can to get the water out.” The larval stage of a zebra mussel is not visible to the naked eye and can be taken from lake to lake in a boat’s bilge water or live well.
Finally, “Try to dry out everything you can before you go to another lake,” said Olson. Even without standing water, some invasive species can stay alive for several days in a moist environment. If you don’t have time to dry out the boat, said Olson, take it to a pressure washer service to really clean out the residue from a lake.