November 1, 2012

Wyandotte County Lake the latest to be infested with invasive species

EMPORIA—During regular monitoring efforts, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) officials discovered zebra mussel veligers (larval stage) in Wyandotte County Lake, which is located at Leavenworth Rd. and 92nd St. in Kansas City. Adult zebra mussels were found upon further investigation.

This latest casualty brings the total of Kansas reservoirs and lakes infested with non-native zebra mussels to 17 and highlights the need for anglers and boaters to be aware of the dangers of moving water and baitfish between lakes. New regulations designed to prevent further spread of aquatic nuisance species (ANS) require anglers to use wild-caught baitfish only in the lakes or streams where they were caught, except that live green sunfish and bluegill may be moved from waters not on the ANS-designated list. In addition, livewells and bilges of boats must be drained prior to transport from any Kansas water on a public highway. And anglers may not transport live fish from any ANS-designated water. The 407-acre Wyandotte County Lake, which is owned by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, is now an ANS-designated water. A complete list of ANS-designated waters is included on the ANS page of the KDWPT website (ProtectKSWaters.org) and will be in the 2013 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary.

Zebra mussels are bean-sized, bi-valve mollusks with striped shells. They are native to the Black and Caspian seas of western Asia and eastern Europe and have been spread across the world via cargo ships. They were discovered in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River in 1988. Zebra mussels quickly spread throughout the Great Lakes and to many inland rivers including the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas and Hudson. They first appeared in Kansas in 2003 when they were discovered in El Dorado Reservoir. Public education programs were used to inform boaters about the dangers of zebra mussels in our waters and ways to prevent spreading them. However, zebra mussels continue to show up in new lakes every year. Moving water in boats and bait buckets was identified as a likely vector.

Although related, zebra mussels differ from our native mussels in several important categories. Perhaps the most important is the zebra mussels’ ability to produce very large populations in a short time. Unlike native mussels, zebra mussels do not require a host fish to reproduce. A large female zebra mussel is capable of producing 1 million eggs during the reproductive season. Once fertilized, eggs develop into microscopic veligers. These veligers cannot be seen by the naked eye and thousands can survive in small quantities of water. Veligers passively float within the water for up to two weeks before they settle out as young mussels. These young mussels quickly grow to adult size and reproduce during their first summer of life, thus adding to the problem of extremely dense populations.

After settling, zebra mussels develop byssal threads that allow the shells to attach to hard surfaces such as rocks, piers, and flooded timber. They also attach themselves to pipes, water intake structures, boat hulls, propellers, and lower units of outboard motors. As populations increase in these areas, they can clog intake pipes and prevent water treatment plants and electrical generating plants from drawing water. In 2012, two Kansas communities, Council Grove and Osage City, experienced water shortages because of zebra mussel infestations before water intake structures could be cleaned up. Removing large quantities of zebra mussels to ensure adequate water supplies can be labor-intensive and costly.

Zebra mussels are just one of the non-native aquatic species that threaten our waters and native wildlife. Boaters and anglers must remember to follow regulations and precautions that will prevent the spread:

• Clean, drain and dry boats and equipment between uses

• Use wild-caught bait only in the lake or pool where it was caught

• Do not move live fish from waters infested with zebra mussels or other aquatic nuisance species

• Drain livewells and bilges and remove drain plugs from all vessels prior to transport from any Kansas water on a public highway.

For more information on stopping aquatic nuisance species in Kansas, visit ProtectKSWaters.org