A recent discovery of zebra mussel shells in Prior Lake means boaters and anglers should take extra precautions when using the popular southwestern metro lake, according to officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Although officials arenâ€™t certain whether the shells originally came from live zebra mussels in the lake or were brought to the area on equipment and fell off, they said itâ€™s likely the lake is infested.
After a homeowner reported finding unusual looking shells along the southeast shore of lower Prior Lake, DNR biologists found about a dozen empty zebra mussel shells. DNR staff will look for zebra mussels in Prior Lake as soon as ice is off the lake and will designate the lake as infested if live zebra mussels are found.
A nonnative invasive species, zebra mussels pose serious ecological and economic threats to Minnesotaâ€™s lakes and streams. Heavy infestations can kill native mussels, may impact fish populations, can interfere with recreation, and can increase costs for industry, including power and water supply facilities. Native to Eastern Europe and Western Russia, zebra mussels were first discovered in Minnesota in 1989 in the Duluth harbor. They subsequently have spread to eight inland lakes, including Mille Lacs, and to portions of the Mississippi, St. Croix and Zumbro rivers.
If the presence of zebra mussels is confirmed in Prior Lake, it could pose risks for other waters, said Luke Skinner, supervisor of DNRâ€™s invasive species unit.
â€œAs one of the larger lakes in the Twin Cities metro area, Prior Lake has significant boat traffic, with people coming and going all the time,â€ Skinner said. â€œEveryone is going to have to be extra vigilant to keep from spreading these pests to other waters.â€
Boaters can help prevent further spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species by taking a few simple extra precautions:
* inspect and remove all visible aquatic plants, animals and mud from boats, trailers and equipment such as anchors before leaving a water access;
* inspect and remove all visible aquatic plants, animals or mud from docks, boat lifts and swim rafts before transporting to another water;
* drain all water from boats – including live wells, bilges and bait buckets – before leaving a water access;
* spray or rinse boats with high pressure and/or hot water, or let them dry thoroughly for five days before transporting to another water.
The DNR steps up inspections, enforcement and education around infested waters. Under Minnesota law it is a misdemeanor to transport water or prohibited invasive species from designated infested waters.