The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and partners have confirmed the presence of New Zealand mudsnails (NZMS) at Warm Springs Fish Hatchery near Lake Sonoma, nearly 240 miles west of Lake Tahoe, which had confirmed the presence of mudsnails only 22 days prior. While the species has been detected in other segments of the watershed, this is the first confirmed detection at Warm Springs Hatchery.
During a regularly scheduled quarterly hatchery survey this summer, the mudsnails were detected in an intake pipeline and aeration pond. Since then, scientists have surveyed about 75% of Coho-bearing streams in the watershed and have not observed their presence beyond previously known locations. Warm Springs Hatchery operates production and release programs for Coho salmon (a federal and state-listed endangered species) and steelhead (federally listed threatened species). The mudsnail surveys have focused on stocking locations for these fish species, conducted mainly in Russian River tributaries in the lower basin.
“The detection levels so far have not been alarming, but we want to do everything we can to minimize the spread,” said CDFW North Central Regional Manager Morgan Kilgour.
Dense populations of the mudsnails can displace and out-compete native species; they may consume up to half of the food resources in a stream and have been linked to reduced populations of aquatic insects, including mayflies, caddisflies, chironomids and other insects vital to trout and salmon.
Invasive New Zealand mudsnails were first discovered in California in 2000 in the Owens River. The species was believed to have been introduced to western rivers through shipments of live sportfish, but subsequent spread is likely due to recreational activities. Dry Creek flows by Warm Springs Hatchery and has previously been identified as positive for the mudsnails. The source of the recent detections is unknown, but it is suspected that the snails came to the hatchery via its source, Lake Sonoma.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) operates the Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program at Warm Springs Fish Hatchery and contracts with CDFW to operate its steelhead program. In addition to the surveys, the state has increased biosecurity measures at the hatchery.
The hatchery will continue to operate its Coho and steelhead programs. CDFW is working with USACE and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which permits the hatchery, to determine if any changes in Coho release protocols are needed given the detections.
“NOAA Fisheries fully supports CDFW and the USACE’s efforts to minimize the risk of further spread of aquatic invasive species such as NZMS within the Russian River and other watersheds that provide critical habitat for listed salmon and steelhead,” said Robert Coey, north central coast supervisor in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast region.
Boaters, anglers, and others who visit the Russian River watershed are asked to decontaminate equipment and follow the “clean, drain and dry” directive with all equipment used in the river:
- If you wade, freeze waders and other gear overnight (at least six hours).
- After leaving the water, inspect waders, boots, float tubes, boat trailers or any gear used in the water.
- Remove any visible snails with a stiff brush and follow with rinsing. If possible, freeze or completely dry out any wet gear.
- Never transport live fish or other aquatic plants or animals from one water body to another.
For more information, visit the CDFW’s California’s Invaders: New Zealand Mudsnail webpage.