May 2021 - 12

ASK GAME AND FISH

What are potential implications of
discovering zebra mussels on aquarium
plants to Wyoming?

A:

Zebra mussels could have broadreaching implications for Wyoming,
especially if detected in natural waters or
city water treatment facilities. In March the
invasive mussel was discovered in Wyoming
for the first time on moss balls, an aquatic
plant primarily sold in pet stores. The main
concern for Wyoming is zebra mussels could
spread from fish tanks throughout the state
from people pouring water down the drain or
outside in water bodies. If they spread, zebra
mussels could have significant impacts to the
state's natural waters, fishing opportunities,
recreation, agriculture, tourism and municipal
infrastructures.
Zebra mussels are considered one of the
most destructive aquatic invasive species in
North America. Zebra mussels can overtake
any place with water by attaching to hard
surfaces. The tiny animals quickly reproduce;
each female can produce up to 1 million eggs
a year. There is little to be done to eradicate
zebra mussels once they are established,
especially in natural waters. In Wyoming,
that means rivers, reservoirs, irrigation systems

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12 | May 2021	

or even the household pipes could be at risk.
" Given the way zebra mussels arrived in
Wyoming, the consequences of an infestation
are wide-reaching. Any impacts could be
realized by anglers, boaters and recreationalists,
as well as by farmers, ranchers, homeowners,
taxpayers and visitors. An infestation of zebra
mussels affects everyone, and that's why we're
so concerned, " said Alan Osterland, Wyoming
Game and Fish Department chief of fisheries.
Mussels build upon hard surfaces,
encrusting anything they can latch onto.
They can quickly clog pipes or equipment,
and could even affix to state infrastructure
like roadway bridges or dams if present in the
water. That could amount to a costly problem
for Wyoming.
" We know if zebra mussels get into
our natural waters or city water systems, it
could cost the state of Wyoming millions of
dollars, " Osterland said. " A recent report from
Montana estimated it could cost over $497
million in lost revenue, property damage and
costs to mitigate impacts if invasive mussels
became established in the state. We must do

everything we can to keep these mussels out
of Wyoming. "
The potential cost of a zebra mussel
infestation in Wyoming is far more than
monetary.
" Zebra mussels are prolific filter-feeders.
They will eliminate the important nutrients in
the water fish depend on for food and change
the entire ecosystem, " Osterland said. " They
will litter shorelines with shells, too. "
Identifying mussels in natural bodies
of water will limit boating and recreation
opportunities. AIS inspectors continue to
inspect boats as one of the lines of defense
against an infestation.
Because of the significant threat, the
Wyoming Game and Fish Department and
the Wyoming Department of Agriculture are
leading efforts to keep zebra mussels out of the
state's natural waters and identify the scale of
impacts to Wyoming. Check frequently for
updates at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Get-Involved/
AIS-moss-balls.
- Sara DiRienzo is the Wyoming Game and Fish
Department public information officer.


https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Get-Involved/AIS-moss-balls http://wgfd.wyo.gov/store

May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of May 2021

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https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/october-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/september-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/august-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/july-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/june-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/may-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/april-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/march-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/february-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/January2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/December2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/September2020
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com