LINCOLN, Neb. – While many Nebraska boaters are eager to enjoy a summer day on the lake, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission urges them to be wary of a nasty hitchhiker: the zebra mussel.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, Game and Parks watercraft inspectors found two boats with zebra mussels attached attempting to launch. Each boat was inspected and not allowed to launch with viable zebra mussels. Watercraft inspectors are present throughout the state this summer at various water bodies to prevent the spread of invasive species.
Zebra mussels can live up to two weeks out of water and young zebra mussels – or veligers – are invisible to the naked eye and can be spread through any water left undrained. Boaters should clean all visible plants, mud, or animals, drain all water within the boat, including the motor, and dry their boat for five days before going to another water body.
Game and Parks regulations require anglers, hunters and boaters conduct clean, drain and dry procedures before leaving a water body; they also are not allowed to arrive at a new one with any water from another water body.
“Frankly, we need the public’s help this summer,” said Kristopher Stahr, Game and Parks aquatic invasive species program manager. “Once established, zebra mussels can be devastating to a water body and prevention is the best tool we have. Surrounding states have been greatly impacted by zebra mussel invasions, and we want to keep Nebraska waters invasive-free, now and for future generations.”
A zebra mussel is a highly invasive aquatic species that looks like a D-shaped clam, with alternating light and dark bands. Most zebra mussels are less than an inch long. They form dense colonies and filter large quantities of plankton from water, decreasing the food supply for native species.
In addition, these mussels pollute swimming areas with sharp shells and clog water intake pipes. The Missouri River has an existing zebra mussel population along its entire length downstream of Gavins Point Dam. Lewis and Clark Lake, Lake Yankton and the Offutt Base Lake are the only other confirmed Nebraska waters that have established zebra mussel populations.
The public is encouraged to report any suspected observation of zebra mussels or other aquatic invasive species to Game and Parks at 402-471-7602 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.