Fight to stop spread of invasive mussels has gone to the dogs

HELENA, Mont. (LOG NEWS SERVICE) — State Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials announced larvae of aquatic invasive mussels had been found for the first time in state waters.

Since then Montana’s fight to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species has literally gone to the dogs.

To help contain the spread of the invasive mussels, authorities first began using dogs specially trained to detect the presence of the mussels on the hulls of trailerable boats stopped at boat-checking stations in and around the Flathead basin.

After water samples from Tiber Reservoir east of Shelby, Montana tested positive for the larvae of aquatic invasive mussels. With similar tests from Canyon Ferry Reservoir near Helena showing “suspect” or inconclusive results, state officials decided to expand the use of trained dogs to inspect boat docks, launches and shorelines.

On Nov. 14, the Associated Press reported that dogs, which had been brought in from Canada, had alerted state officials to the presence of invasive mussels at the two reservoirs.

Officials said that although the dogs, trained to pick up the scent of zebra and quagga mussels, indicated that they smelled mussels at the Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs, officials were unable to verify that mussels were actually present.

“This is the first positive test in Montana for the larvae of quagga or zebra mussels,” Eileen Ryce, FWP fisheries division administrator said in a release. “The results from Tiber Reservoir show the larvae exist at very low densities, which improves our chances for containment.”

Brought by seagoing ships from Eastern Europe in the 1980s, zebra and quagga mussels do not have any natural enemies in the United States.

Previously not known to be established in Montana, mussel populations in other parts of the country including the Midwest, Southwest and Great Lakes areas have impaired hydroelectric, municipal and agricultural water infrastructure.

According to authorities the mussels travel between parts of the country mainly by hitching rides aboard boats and other watercraft on trailers.

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