|May 8, 2014
As water-based activities increase in warmer weather, so does threat of invasive species
By Adriana Fehrs
Zebra Mussels, quagga mussels, New Zealand mud snails, and Eurasian milfoil are several non-native invasive species that CSKT is making efforts to prevent from entering local water systems. Since boating season is upon us, recreationists need to take extra cautions when traveling from one body of water to the next. (Photo courtesy of CKST Fisheries Department)
FLATHEAD INDIAN RESERVATION — Boating season is upon us, and now is the time to take extra precautions against transporting invasive species.
Believe it or not, Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) pose a major threat to Flathead Lake. Mysis shrimp are one of the well-known perpetrators, but there are several other species that the lake and surrounding water systems are susceptible to.
Both non-native zebra mussels (L) and quagga mussels (R) pose a threat to the flathead water system. Identification is key to preventing the spread of invasive species. (Courtesy photo of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.)
Zebra and quagga mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, New Zealand mud snails, and whirling disease are considered invasive species that CSKT is making efforts to prevent from entering reservation waters. Jennifer McBride, MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana writes, “Aquatic Invasive Species are species whose introduction into aquatic ecosystems where they are not native causes economic or environmental damage and/or harm to human health. Separated form the pathogens, predators, and usual factors that limit populations within their native ranges. AIS populations tend to quickly proliferate and, once introduced, are extremely difficult to eradicate.”
CSKT urges any boaters who visit local bodies of water to ‘clean your boat, trailer, and gear before putting them in the water!’ to prevent any transportation of non-native invasive species. Cindy Bras-Benson, CSKT Fisheries Department, says, “make sure to drain your boat well; there are places on a boat that can hold water, and that can allow for a species to survive between bodies of water.” (Photo courtesy of CSKT Fisheries Department)
Cindy Bras-Benson, CSKT Fisheries, says, “Once an AIS is introduced to an area it is difficult, just about impossible, to eradicate. It is also extremely expensive to repair the damages done.” Currently, CSKT focuses on preventative measures, “That’s the least expensive and most effective,” says Bras-Benson.
CSKT’s motto ‘clean, drain, dry, and inspect’ is the best way to prevent transporting invasive species when traveling between bodies of water. Boaters should take extra precautions to clean gear, boating equipment, and boats; hot water is advised. Make sure to drain all the water from your boat; areas such as the live wells will hold water, allowing for invasive species to survive until they reach another water source. Drying equipment and boats is also a very important step. “When a boating vehicle is found carrying an invasive species, they are required to dock for several days,” says Bras-Benson “that’s because species like the Eurasian Watermilfoil can be dried out for days, even weeks, and then regenerate once it is reintroduced to water.” Inspection is the last step in prevention. Boaters should take care to inspect every inch of their boat. Some invasive species can be found on the anchor, in the propellers, and even on the boat trailers.
A distribution map shows the current range of invasive zebra and quagga mussels. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and CSKT are taking preventative measures to stave off an invasion of non-native aquatic species. Ronan and Plains both have boat check-in stations, where boaters are required to undergo an inspection for any invasive species. (Photo courtesy of the United States Geographical Survey)
The CSKT Wetlands Program provides some simple advice: learn to identify local invasive species, report any occurrences to tribal authorities, check your boat and water equipment, don’t knowingly introduce anything from one body of water to another – report those who do, don’t use live bullfrogs as bait, don’t use invasive plants for landscaping, don’t dump aquariums plants/animals into waterways, inform friends and fellow recreationists about the danger of invasive species, participate in local conservation efforts, and get a group you belong to involved in prevention and eradication efforts.
Agencies in partnership with the Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund offer bounties for reporting new invaders. There is a $100 bounty offered for the first verified Eurasian watermilfoil site reported in Montana.
To report a sighting, call the national hotline: 1-877-786-7267, or to report online visit: www.fws.gov/fisheries/contact.html. For additional information visit: www.protecctyourwaters.net.