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Another Kansas Lake With Zebra Mussels

Todd Pittenger - October 15, 2013 2:49 pm

zebra mussels II

Zebra mussels are confirmed at another Kansas lake.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism has confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Clinton Reservoir in Douglas County. An adult population was discovered by fisheries staff during routine fish sampling activities, and a subsequent survey of other locations around the lake indicated the population was widespread.

According to the agency, twenty-two Kansas lakes have now been confirmed to have zebra mussels. Other reservoirs in northeast Kansas with zebra mussel infestations include Milford, Perry, John Redmond and Melvern.

There is no known method to rid a lake of zebra mussels. Officials say that prevention is the best way to avoid spreading the invasive species, by always cleaning, draining, and drying boats and other equipment and by not moving water around.

The sharp-shelled zebra mussels attach to solid objects, so visitors should be careful when handling mussel-encrusted objects and when grabbing an underwater object when they can’t see what their hands may be grasping. Visitors should protect their feet when walking on underwater or shoreline rocks, a helpful precaution any time they are outdoors.

Zebra mussels are bean-sized mollusks with striped, sharp-edged, two-part shells. They can produce huge populations in a short time and do not require a host fish to reproduce. A large female zebra mussel can produce 1 million eggs, and then fertilized eggs develop into microscopic veligers invisible to the naked eye. Veligers drift in the water for up to two weeks before they settle out as young mussels which quickly grow to adult size and reproduce during their first summer of life.

After settling, zebra mussels develop byssal threads that attach their shells to submerged hard surfaces such as rocks, piers, and flooded timber. They also attach to pipes, water intake structures, boat hulls, propellers, and submerged parts of outboard motors. As populations increase, they can clog intake pipes and prevent water treatment and electrical generating plants from drawing water. In 2012, two Kansas communities, Council Grove and Osage City, experienced temporary water shortages from zebra mussel infestations before water intake structures could be cleaned up. Removing large numbers of zebra mussels to ensure adequate water flow can be labor-intensive and costly.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas of western Asia and eastern Europe and were spread around the world in the ballast water of cargo ships. They were discovered in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River in 1988 and quickly spread throughout the Great Lakes and other rivers including the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas and Hudson.

In 2003, they were discovered in Kansas in El Dorado Reservoir. Despite public education efforts to alert boaters about the dangers of zebra mussels and how to prevent spreading them, the species continues to show up in new lakes every year. Moving water in boats and bait buckets has been identified as a likely vector.

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