MTPR

quagga mussels

Phil Matson collects a water sample from Flathead Lake for use in e-DNA testing for quagga and zebra mussels.
Nicky Ouellet

Wherever you go, you leave behind a tiny trace of yourself, a fingerprint even smaller than a cell that says you were here. Every organism does this, including the invasive quagga and zebra mussels the state is trying to keep out of Montana. This summer, a team of scientists in the Flathead Valley is using cutting-edge technology to detect the mussels’ genetic fingerprints sooner. They say early detection may offer the only hope for eradicating the mussels if they do get here.

Flathead Lake near Polson, MT.
P.J. Johnson (CC-BY-ND-2)

Boaters in the Flathead Basin may see some significant changes next season. A new set of regulations aimed at preventing the spread of invasive mussels next year are now being drafted.

The proposed regulations would require all boats to be inspected before they launch, set up a sticker for boats that only launch in Flathead and Swan Lakes, and establish annual fees to fund the program.

Saskatchewan's CL215, or "super scooper," is decontaminated of potential invasive species after fighting the Bridge Coulee Fire on the east side of the continental divide.
Nicky Ouellet

Montana faces twin threats this summer: On land, crews are battling some of the biggest and most destructive fires in the country. In the water, officials are staving off the spread of invasive mussels that could cause millions of dollars of damage to hydropower dams and irrigation lines. These threats come together for wildland firefighters, who often use equipment that travels across the country and has the potential to carry invasive hitchhikers with it. But firefighters are tackling the potential contamination head on.

Glacier National Park recently reopened Lake McDonald to some motorboat users, following a months-long quarantine to keep invasive mussels out of the lake.
Nicky Ouellet

This summer one tiny-shelled invertebrate has dominated the conversation about keeping non-native species out of Montana.

Since zebra and quagga mussel larvae were detected in Tiber Reservoir last summer, local, state, tribal and federal agencies have scrambled to enact programs and policies to keep the mussels out of Montana’s waterways.

Boat inspections are mandatory at City Beach and Whitefish Lake State Park this season
Nicky Ouellet

As the state ramps up its efforts this year to screen boats for invasive species, some local groups have taken inspections into their own hands.

The City of Whitefish and the Whitefish Lake Institute, for example, have been running two city-funded mandatory check stations since Memorial Day at the only public boat launches on Whitefish Lake. The Whitefish Lake Institute, a local nonprofit that monitors water quality on the lake, also runs a decontamination station.

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