GILLETTE, Wyo. — Quagga mussels were recently discovered in an area of the Snake River in Idaho, drawing concern from Wyoming wildlife managers about their proximity to the state border.
As of Sept. 21, five of the six states sharing a border with Wyoming contain populations of zebra or quagga mussels, with the Idaho State Department recently confirming the discovery of quagga mussel larvae in the Centennial Waterfront Park area of the Snake River, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The infested area does not include the Snake River upstream of Shoshone Falls in southern Idaho, nor has the invasive species been discovered in any other Idaho waterbody, but the discovery is still cause for concern in a state that has yet to have been exposed to the destructive species, Game and Fish says.
“[Game and Fish] is concerned about the potential impacts this detection could have on Wyoming, especially the inadvertent movement of invasive mussels into the state through watercraft movement,” a Sept. 21 release states.
Game and Fish Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Josh Leonard expressed confidence in Idaho’s standing AIS program and the actions they are taking to initiate containment; however, he said Wyoming is still confronting the issue aggressively.
“Game and Fish is increasing our diligence to inspect and decontaminate watercraft coming from the infested area,” Leonard said in a statement.
The discovery in Idaho marks the second time in less than a year that invasive mussels have been found in a body of water close to the Wyoming border. It’s concerning to Wyoming wildlife managers as many boaters frequent waters on both sides of the state line.
Quagga mussels have emerged alongside zebra mussels as one of the most aggressive invasive species infesting the United States, Game and Fish says. The larvae, also known as veligers, cannot be seen with the naked eye and grow quickly to develop hair-like filaments and shells within a few weeks.
“Once the veligers find a suitable surface to attach to, they stick themselves to the surface using the hair-like protrusions and develop into adults,” per Game and Fish, which says adult mussels are highly competitive and persistent.
Both zebra and quagga mussels carry the potential to cause fishery collapses and damage to boats and motors, according to Game and Fish. They can also pose hazards to swimmers and waders, poor water quality and significant damage to water treatment facilities, hydroelectric power generators and irrigation systems.
Wyoming is a headwater state, Game and Fish says, and these impacts would cascade down the Columbia, Colorado and Missouri river drainages if they become established here.
“Game and Fish is committed to working with ISDA and closely monitoring the situation on the Snake River in Idaho,” the release says, adding that the department will make adjustments to inspection protocols and boater requirements if needed to protect Wyoming waters