Water Recreationists, Property Owners Asked to Help Search for ANS

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking water recreationists and property owners to check for zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species when removing boat lifts, docks and other equipment from state waters.

ANS coordinator Ben Holen said zebra mussels attach to hard surfaces that are left in the water for long periods of time, first settling in tight spaces and areas that are protected from sunlight. He said this is a great opportunity for members of the public to assist in ANS detection efforts because the earlier a new ANS infestation is detected, the better the chance to contain the spread.

“It makes it easier to do a thorough search on equipment when it’s taken out of the water in fall,” Holen said. “Pay special attention to wheel wells, right angles on frames, and areas otherwise protected from sunlight. Feel for attached organisms that have small hair-like structures holding them in place. Small mussels can feel like rough sandpaper, and adults can be as large as 2 inches long.”

Holen said if you think you’ve found a zebra mussel, take pictures, write down any relevant information, such as how many were found and where, and report it online at the Game and Fish website gf.nd.gov/ans, or email Holen at bholen@nd.gov.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas and were introduced to the United States in the mid-1980s. Since then, they have caused massive damage to infrastructure, increased costs to electric and water users, and altered the ecosystems into which they were introduced. They were first discovered in North Dakota in the Red River in 2015 as a result of downstream drift from infested Minnesota lakes. Most recently, zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Ashtabula in 2019, and Lake LaMoure earlier this year.

“Water recreationists and property owners play a vital role in ANS prevention,” Holen said. “Equipment such as boat lifts and docks are high risk vectors for spreading ANS, especially zebra mussels. When transporting boat lifts or docks, thoroughly inspect, and dry for three weeks before placing in a different waterbody.”