Aquarium owners could earn $1,200 in moss-ball buyback to fight zebra mussels - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Aquarium owners could earn $1,200 in moss-ball buyback to fight zebra mussels

Zebra mussel in a “marimo ball” (right), and on a boat propeller (left) (Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

CASPER, Wyo — Aquarium owners could get could get $1,200 for their aquarium moss balls as Wyoming wildlife managers launch a take-back program aimed at stopping the spread of invasive zebra mussels.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced the month-long take-back program Monday. The program is a collaboration with Wyoming Trout Unlimited and other sponsors.

In March, the invasive species was discovered in the aquarium algae products in Wyoming pet stores, prompting the state department of agriculture to quarantine the importation of the product. The Governor also launched a task force aimed at tracking stores where the products may have been shipped.

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“Zebra mussels are a serious threat to Wyoming’s waters, outdoor recreation, municipalities, agriculture, state infrastructure and tourism. That’s why we are going the extra mile to encourage people to dispose of their moss balls that could have zebra mussels,” said Alan Osterland, Game and Fish chief of fisheries.

Once the mussels are established in a water system, they are virtually impossible to remove, WDE said, and cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1 billion in damage annually.

“Every moss ball returned helps prevent the potential spread of zebra mussels,” said Josh Leonard, Game and Fish aquatic invasive species coordinator. “Just because you don’t see a mussel, doesn’t mean its tiny offspring are not there. That’s why disposing of all moss balls is vital, as well as the water they’ve been in.”

All aquarium moss balls are eligible to be submitted to the program. To return a moss ball, net it out of your aquarium and put it in a closed, plastic bag or container. Moss balls can be dropped off to one of the 10 take-back locations across Wyoming. 

  • Johnson County Emergency Management, 26 N. DeSmet, Buffalo
  • Game and Fish Sheridan Regional Office, 700 Valley View Dr., Sheridan
  • Game and Fish Cody Regional Office, 2820 Highway 120, Cody
  • Game and Fish Jackson Regional Office, 420 N. Cache St., Jackson
  • Game and Fish Pinedale Regional Office, 432 E. Mill St., Pinedale
  • Game and Fish Green River Regional Office, 351 Astle Ave. Green River
  • Game and Fish Lander Regional Office, 260 Buena Vista Dr., Lander
  • Game and Fish Casper Regional Office, 3030 Energy Ln., Casper
  • Game and Fish Laramie Regional Office, 1212 S. Adams St., Laramie
  • Game and Fish Headquarters, 5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne

Anyone who returns a moss ball can scan a QR code at the drop-off site to enter into a raffle to win $1,200. The raffle closes May 15. 

“Please do not buy more moss balls,” Leonard added. “Game and Fish is still working to contain the threat of zebra mussels in Wyoming, and a major key to protecting our state is the public’s help.” 

The moss ball take-back program is supported by Wyoming Trout Unlimited, the WYldlife Fund, Wyoming Game Wardens Association, Wyoming County Commissioners Association, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Wyoming Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Wildlife Federation and Muley Fanatic Foundation.

More information about how to properly dispose of the moss balls and aquarium water is available here.