MTPR

zebra mussels

Divers with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Montana FWP prepare to dive at Tiber Dam to look for adult zebra and/or quagga mussels, August 7, 2017.
Beth Saboe - MontanaPBS

Scuba divers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have spent the past three days in north-central Montana, scouring the waters of Tiber Dam for any signs of aquatic invasive mussels.

Last October, a juvenile mussel was found in a water sample from Tiber Reservoir by the Bureau of Reclamation, and suspicious samples were discovered in Canyon Ferry Reservoir, near Townsend. Since then, the state has ramped up its efforts to stave off a potentially destructive infestation of non-native quaqqa and zebra 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.

Blackfeet tribal leaders have reopened some reservation waters to motorized boats. All boats are required to receive an official inspection before launching into a lake or river on the reservation.
Katrin Frye

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Blackfeet tribal leaders have reopened some reservation waters to motorized boats after approving new regulations in response to the threat of aquatic invasive mussels.

The Flathead Beacon reported last week that motorized crafts are limited to four lakes (Duck, St. Mary, Mission and Four Horn lakes).

A fisherman hooks a big one on the Clark Fork River.
Josh Burnham

Montana anglers will now have to purchase an Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass — even if they've already bought a fishing license for 2017 — as part of a program passed by the Legislature and signed into law Thursday.

The passes are expected to generate $3.2 million dollars per year to be used in the fight against aquatic invasive species (AIS) that threaten the health of the state's waters.

Georgia Smies, an aquatic biologist for the Flathead Tribes, plays a game about the impacts of aquatic invasive species with students from Lolo
Nicky Ouellet

This week, the shore of the lower Flathead River west of Ronan is the biggest classroom in Montana. Fourth and fifth graders from across western Montana are here for the River Honoring, an annual event hosted by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, where they learn about the plants and animals native to the reservation.

Jim Elser, director of the Flathead Biological Research Station, answers questions at a public meeting on aquatic invasive mussels.
Nicky Ouellet

Zebra and quagga mussels are aquatic invasive species, quick to colonize and very difficult to get rid of. They’ve caused millions of dollars of damage since they started popping up in Great Lake states in the 1980s, and they have a lot of people in the Flathead Valley concerned right now.

Quagga mussels cover an outboard motor at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
National Parks Service (PD)

Even one confirmed detection of quagga or zebra mussels could have devastating economic and environmental consequence for the Flathead Reservation. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are mounting a campaign to prevent that from happening.

Fisheries biologists checking for adult invasive mussels.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Glacier National Park will lift restrictions on non-motorized, hand-propelled boats this season. But park superintendent Jeff Mow says mandatory invasive species inspections will simultaneously ramp up across the park.

Fisheries biologists checking for adult invasive mussels.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) — Glacier National Park officials have temporarily closed boating on park lakes as a precautionary response to the discovery of larvae from invasive mussels in Montana waters for the first time.

Katrin Frye

Pepin is an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois trained to identify about 19 different scents.

In a demonstration at the Flathead National Forest office he’s finding wolverine scat Megan Parker placed out there earlier in the day. Parker is the Director for Research, and also a co-founder of Working Dogs for Conservation. The Missoula-based group is in the Flathead to talk with the Flathead Basin Commission about how dogs like Pepin could help in the effort to stop aquatic invasive mussels and weeds from getting into the area.