Summit County: Update on county efforts to thwart invasive species

A picture named zebraquaggamussels

From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

Aquatic nuisance species like zebra mussels, quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails and rusty crayfish have thus far not been detected in Summit County’s waters. But they’re practically banging on our door. Populations of the invasive mussels are already established in Pueblo Reservoir and in multiple reservoirs in Grand County. Stopping them from crossing the county border depends on the vigilance of boaters, anglers and others who enjoy the water…

According to [Elizabeth Brown, state invasive species coordinator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife], people can get confused or intimidated by the topic of invasive species, but halting their spread is actually quite simple. “It’s very easy for an everyday person who knows nothing about natural resources biology to stop invasive species just by making sure their boat or ATV doesn’t have any biological material on it. Whether on land or water, it’s the same message: Keep your stuff clean, take nothing with you, and leave nothing behind,” Brown said.

Taking nothing with you includes not picking up plants or animals from one body of water and move them to another. For that matter, don’t take water from one place and move it to another — some species are so small at juvenile stages of development that they’re invisible to the naked eye. And if you’ve become tired of tending your household aquarium, never release species into local habitats…

Both [zebra and quagga] mussels are small barnacle-like mollusks with dark and light stripes. They smother aquatic organisms, such as crayfish and native clams and outcompete for food and aquatic habitat. They damage equipment by attaching to boat motors or hard surfaces and clog water treatment facilities. Once they’re in the water, there’s no way to control them, so prevention is the best — and only — cure. Each female mussel produces about one million eggs a year. From the time the mussels enter a water body, they can completely cover its bottom and begin creeping up the shoreline within a matter of five years…

The rusty crayfish, native to the American Midwest, is Colorado’s newest invasive aquatic species. It was originally spread by anglers who used it as bait. The crustacean has been discovered in the headwaters of Colorado’s Yampa River. “They don’t create the high-dollar cost for water supplies like zebra mussels do, but from an ecological standpoint, they’re pretty horrendous. They have strong impacts to the food web and native fishes,” Brown said.

The Eurasian watermilfoil, a submerged aquatic plant, also appeared recently in the Centennial State. It forms extensive, thick, dense mats that clog water bodies, disrupting fisheries, fostering mosquitos and impairing drinking water.

The New Zealand mudsnail was first detected in Colorado rivers and streams in 2004. The mudsnail invades new habitat when it becomes attached to fishing gear, boats, trailers, fish or bait, and then it comes off in the next stream or river. Mudsnails consume aquatic vegetation, upsetting the balance of the aquatic environment.

More invasive species coverage here.

Leave a Reply