Zebra mussels – the aquatic invasive species that can kill native mussels, affect vegetation levels and alter a water source's food chain – have been found in an area of northwest Minnesota for the first time ever.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) put out a new release Friday morning confirming the presence of zebra mussels on Lake Melissa, located just southwest of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.
The mussels were discovered and reported to the DNR by a citizen, the agency says.
“This is the first confirmed zebra mussel find in the Detroit Lakes area,” southern District Manager Barry Stratton said in the release. “We’re extremely pleased that this discovery was reported so quickly and with such detail. The report included specific location information and photos that allowed us to respond immediately to the exact spot.”
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The DNR says officials inspected more than 700 items on Lake Sallie, which is upstream from Lake Melissa, and found no zebra mussels. Lake Melissa will be designated as infested, as will Mill Pond and Minnow Pond, which are located downstream.
Mussels, the department explains, are not native to the Great Lakes. They attach to solid surfaces in the water, the only freshwater mussel that can do so, and spread from one water source to another by attaching to movable objects – such as boats, nets, aquatic vegetation or swim platforms – which are then put into other sources of water.
There is no proven method yet to get rid of fast-multiplying zebra mussels once they appear in a lake, so officials are pleading with boaters to help prevent the spread of the invasive species, which cling to boats and docks, among other surfaces. The DNR again reminds anglers and boaters to remove all aquatic vegetation and to drain all water by removing drain plugs before they leave any water access or shore with their boats.
In May, zebra mussels were found in a lake near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, threatening the prized natural jewel of the north. Last year they were found in hot fishing spot Lake Winnibigoshish, and before that spread quickly in Lake Minnetonka.
Scientists in Wisconsin are planning to apply a special experimental pesticide on an inland lake in northern Wisconsin in hopes of killing off zebra mussels that have attached themselves to native mussel beds.
If the tests of the chemical, called Zequanox, are successful, the treatment could one day be a tool to control the spread of destructive zebra and quagga mussels, both invasive species.