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Invasive mussel species discovered in Colorado waters for the first time

By on September 18, 2022 0

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has confirmed the presence of a highly invasive zebra mussel in Highline Lake at Highline Lake State Park.

“CPW found a single adult zebra mussel on a piece of substrate (PVC pipe) in the lake during routine invasive species sampling on September 14. Two CPW experts have independently confirmed the identification of mold by visual identification methods and genetic confirmation was also done on the sample,” CPW said in a press release.

This is the first time an adult zebra mussel has been discovered in Colorado waters.

In response, the department has since increased monitoring of Highline Lake for invasive mussels, CPW said. Before entering the lake, all boats will be subject inspection and decontamination protocols.

Boaters will also receive a green seal and a blue receipt indicating that their vehicle was last used on a body of water with a known nuisance.

“If a boater leaving Highline Lake intends to launch in a different body of water, their boat must be decontaminated before launching by a certified professional. Due to these additional constraints, boaters can expect decreased ramp times and longer exit wait times for the remainder of the Highline Lake annually closes all surface water activities on October 1,” the statement read.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black, Caspian and Azov Seas of Eastern Europe and were first discovered in the United States in 1988 in the Great Lakes. They have since spread to 33 states. Although small, mussels can wreak havoc on entire habitats and cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

“While this is very troubling, it is important to keep in mind that the lake is not considered infested, a designation given only to bodies of water that have widespread and reproducing adult populations,” said Robert Walters, CPW Invasive Species Program Manager.

“At this point, CPW has detected only one invasive mussel at Highline. We will continue to monitor throughout the fall to get a more complete picture of the species’ presence in the reservoir.”

Potential negative impacts of zebra mussels, as provided by CPW, include:

  • prolific reproduction
  • Clogged water infrastructure
  • Ecological impacts
  • Recreational impacts
  • Economic impacts
  • Social impacts
  • Difficult or impossible to eradicate
  • Rapid propagation in new water

“It’s an unfortunate discovery, and something we’ve worked very hard to prevent,” said Heather Dugan, CPW’s acting director.

“This shows why we need a robust inspection program. As more people travel to or visit Colorado and use our water resources for boating, we must continue to work hard to prevent the spread of these harmful invasive species. We cannot overestimate the severity of that,” she said.

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