Tracking an advancing invasion: FAQs about zebra mussels in Lake Mendota

Understanding how new arrivals of non-native plants and animals impact our lakes and waterways is important for making smart management decisions. That is why the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is supporting research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology on the invasion of zebra mussels to Madison’s iconic Lake Mendota.

As people remove their boats and piers for the season, zebra mussel sightings in Lake Mendota have been on the rise. In response to numerous inquiries the researchers have been receiving as a result, the Center for Limnology recently published the following explanatory piece by Adam Hinterthuer, which they have permitted us to re-post here.

Zebra mussels encrust sections of the UW Hoofers sailing pier pulled out of Lake Mendota in early November, 2016. Photo: A. Hinterthuer

Zebra mussels encrust sections of the UW Hoofers sailing pier pulled out of Lake Mendota in early November, 2016. Photo: A. Hinterthuer

Last fall, students in a UW-Madison undergraduate limnology lab found invasive zebra mussels living in Lake Mendota for the first time. Later that year, when we pulled the Hasler Lab pier out of the water for the winter, we only found two, maybe three, mussels per leg of each pier section. While the mussels were undoubtedly in the lake, no one would refer to it as an “invasion.”

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Bringing home new knowledge on aquatic invasive species

Post by Jenny Seifert, UWEX Outreach Specialist

Sharing knowledge and building boundary-spanning relationships are essential to stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species. This is why over 600 aquatic invasive species professionals from across the Upper Midwest descended upon La Crosse in October to take part in the biennial Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference.

A packed house for the opening plenaries. Photo courtesy Timothy Campbell

A packed house for the opening plenaries. Photo courtesy Timothy Campbell

Among the presenters, attendees and organizers were staff members from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the agency’s many state partners. Wisconsin benefits greatly from participation by program staff, because it means they can bring home and apply new knowledge and solutions to protect the state’s native environment, upon which its economy, recreational traditions and ecological resilience depend.

 

In this post, we share a sampling of information from the conference that may be helpful to those who enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors.

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Tis the season for checking under your boats and piers for zebra mussels

Post by Jenny Seifert, UWEX outreach specialist 

Own a boat or pier? As you remove them this fall for their winter hibernation, don’t forget to check them for aquatic invasive species and report any findings. This simple step is part of the important role you play in preventing the spread of non-native plants and animals that can harm Wisconsin’s environment and economy.

Of particular concern are zebra mussels, which will often be attached docks and piers after a summer under water . The Wisconsin DNR is once again calling on citizens and contractors to keep an eye out for these striped mollusks.

Zebra mussels attached to a floating dock.

Zebra mussels attached to a floating dock. Credit: Sandy Kemsley (Credstive Commons)

Zebra mussels are only in approximately 250 lakes and rivers in Wisconsin, While currently uncommon, once established, zebra mussels can disrupt the food web and suppress the growth and survival of fish. They also cling to docks, pier legs, boats, anchors and other submerged equipment, and clog water intakes, potentially causing damage.

Inspecting your equipment as you remove it for the season is essential for quick action to keep zebra mussels at bay. In addition to a visual check, make sure to feel along smooth surfaces for a sandpapery texture, as juvenile mussels are often invisible to the naked eye.

If you find (or feel) any zebra mussels or other invasive species, take these steps:

  • Check the DNR website to see if the species has not already been found in the waterbody.
  • Note the exact location where you found them.
  • Take a photo of them in the setting where they were found, if possible.
  • Collect up to five specimens of varying sizes, place them in a jar with water and get them to a refrigerator, putting them on ice in transport, if possible.
  • Contact your local lake biologist and deliver the specimens.

While the Wisconsin DNR and partners are monitoring hundreds of lakes and rivers every year for invasive species like zebra mussels, the more people on the lookout, the quicker the DNR can respond to a new invasion. Speed is critical for guiding management decisions and curbing their spread into other lakes and waterways.

Let’s all do our part to keep invasive species out of our cherished lakes and waterways.

Inspect, Remove, Drain, Never Move!

Inspect, Remove, Drain, Never Move!

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Volunteers Ready for 2016 Landing Blitz

Author – Molly Sequin; UWEX Student Outreach Assistant

Many boaters in Wisconsin wait all year for their favorite water holiday – the Fourth of July! Temperatures are warm and days are long, making for a great time on the water with friends and family. The large number of new and experienced boaters out on the holiday weekend make it a great time to make sure all boaters are on board with the aquatic invasive species (AIS) prevention message.

Clean Boats Clean Waters' Gary Harper inspecting a boat. Photo courtesy of Dane County Land and Water Resources Department.

Clean Boats Clean Waters’ Gary Harper inspecting a boat. Photo courtesy of Dane County Land and Water Resources Department.

For the 8th consecutive year, Clean Boats Clean Waters volunteers across the state will partner to help prevent the spread of AIS during this busy holiday weekend during the 4th of July Landing Blitz. Volunteers will be at landings throughout the state to show boaters how to remove AIS from their watercraft and to thank them for the work that has already been done to stop the spread of AIS. Friendly reminders will be made to those that already understand the prevention message, with some volunteers even handing out Stop Aquatic Hitchhiker towels for those taking action!

 
UW-Extension and Wisconsin DNR AIS Communications Specialist, Tim Campbell, believes that this event is one of the most important AIS events that happens in Wisconsin each year. “Thousands of boaters, including many that may not have previously heard the AIS message, are contacted on this one weekend,” Campbell says. “The Landing Blitz helps reinforce that everyone, from frequent boaters to those on the water once a year, can take actions to stop the spread of AIS.” Those actions include removing plants and draining water from boats, live wells, and trailers. For anglers needing to transport their catch home, a cooler full of ice is a good and legal alternative to transporting fish in water.
Last year’s Landing Blitz was a success, with more than 10,000 boats inspected and 23,000 people contacted over the nearly 3,500 volunteer and staff hours recorded. The 2016 Landing Blitz is shaping up to as big or bigger than 2015!

Kacie Baillies, a Clean Boats Clean Waters volunteer, being interviewed at High Cliff State Park. Photo courtesy of Diane Schauer.

Local media even gets involved during the Landing Blitz! Kacie Baillies, a Clean Boats Clean Waters volunteer, being interviewed at High Cliff State Park. Photo courtesy of Diane Schauer.

Just in case you don’t encounter a landing blitz participant on the 4th of July weekend, here is a reminder of what boaters need to do to keep Wisconsin waterways free of AIS. Keep up with these guidelines and you’ll help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers all summer long!

  • INSPECT boats, trailers and equipment.
  • REMOVE all attached aquatic plants and animals.
  • DRAIN all water from boats, vehicles, equipment including livewells and buckets containing fish.
  • NEVER MOVE plants or live fish away from a waterbody.
  • DISPOSE of unwanted bait in the trash.
  • BUY minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer. Use leftover minnows only under certain conditions*
    • *You may take leftover minnows away from any state water and use them again on that same water. You may use leftover minnows on other waters only if no lake or river water of other fish were added to their container.

For more information go to http://dnr.wi.gov/lakes/invasives.

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