Ardmore City Lake and Shawnee Twin Lakes now contain invasive zebra mussels for the first time, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The zebra mussel is a small mussel named for the striped pattern of its shell. They typically are found attached to surfaces, objects, or other mussels. Zebra mussels affect ecosystems that they invade by damaging boat engines, threatening native mussels, fish and wildlife by consuming available food, and costing taxpayers millions of dollars by clogging water intakes and pipes.
ODWC’s Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) program has confirmed invasive zebra mussels in 24 different water bodies throughout Oklahoma, including Kaw, Sooner, Hefner, Keystone, Robert S. Kerr, Grand, Skiatook, Eufaula, Oologah, Claremore, Greenleaf and
Texoma lakes, as well as in the lower Canadian, Cimarron, Arkansas, Verdigris, Washita and North Canadian rivers.
In only two or three years from first arriving, zebra mussels can significantly populate a body of water.
Fisheries Biologist Katie Schrag, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the Wildlife Department, said once these invasive mussels are present, there is no feasible way to eliminate them. The best strategy is to prevent them from spreading, she said.
Cooperation from boaters and other people using infested waters is vital in slowing or stopping the spread of zebra mussels. Using the “Clean, Drain, Dry” procedure is highly encouraged.
To fight zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species, please remember to drain bilge water, live wells, and bait buckets; inspect your boat and trailer when leaving the water; scrape off any zebra mussels or aquatic vegetation found when on dry land; then wash and dry off your boat, trailer and accessories.
For more information on the “Clean, Drain, Dry” procedure, go to StopAquaticHitchhikers.org or www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/ans/zebra-mussel.
Schrag said invasive species of any kind should never be returned to the water, and any sightings of them should be reported to ODWC by calling (918) 683-1031.
Native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia, zebra mussels are believed to have arrived in the Great Lakes in 1986 via ballast water from a transoceanic vessel. They have quickly spread and are now found in at least 25 states and two Canadian provinces.
To learn more about aquatic nuisance species in Oklahoma, go to https://www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/ans.