Zebra mussels infest new pond in Otter Tail County, report shows
Despite having multiple waterways and more lakes than any other county in the U.S., Otter Tail County has stayed relatively 'safe' from aquatic invasive species infestations when compared to others in Minnesota.
Yet, zebra mussels have made their mark here. The nonnative species has found its way into eight of the county's 1,048 lakes, as well as the Otter Tail River and one pond.
According to a report recently released by the Minnesota DNR, zebra mussels are the only invasive species found in Otter Tail waterways. Others reported in the state include bighead and silver carp, Eurasian water milfoil, faucet snails, flowering rush, spiny water fleas and more.
The report, which is an updated version of the DNR's Designated Infested Waters List, adds Mill Pond to the list. Lakes already listed in the county were Bass, Crystal, Fish, Little Pelican, Lake Lizzie, Pelican, Prairie and Rose. The Otter Tail River is also listed.
Compared to surrounding counties, Otter Tail has a high number of zebra mussel infestations, but is fortunate to have no instances of other types of invasives.
To the north, for example, in Becker County, flowering rush has been found in seven lakes and the Pelican River, and faucet snails are in several unnamed ponds. But just one lake in Becker County, Buck Lake, has zebra mussels - and that's a new one, just added to the DNR's list.
To the south, in Douglas County, three lakes are on the list for Eurasian water milfoil, while zebra mussels have infested 14 lakes and the Long Prairie River.
The Long Prairie River infestation also affects Todd County. No other counties bordering Otter Tail have reported zebra mussels.
Aquatic invasive species are nonnative species that disrupt natural ecosystems. Zebra mussels, as one example, multiply fast and furiously and attach themselves to almost anything - clogging pipes and damaging property. The sharp-shelled mussels also reduce a waterway's recreational value, which can lead to a decline in tourism.
Around the Twin Cities, where human activity is high, the level of infestations is also high. To illustrate, of Hennepin County's 104 lakes, 46 are infested with Eurasian water milfoil while 12 lakes and seven other unnamed wetlands and ponds are infested with zebra mussels. The metro area is home to many other types of invasives, as well.
Nathan Olson, the Perham area's aquatic invasive species contact for the Minnesota DNR, said the relatively low level of infestations in Otter Tail County is most likely due to a stronger awareness of invasives - an awareness that was cultivated before the problem reached this part of the state, and therefore gave people time to be proactive.
Because aquatic invasives were first reported in the metro area, "I think people up here were alerted to the issues and how many aquatic invasive species exist, so it's given this part of the state a chance to do some more work on prevention," Olson said. "I think people are just more aware."
"At the same time," he added, "we just don't have any major meccas where the species travel from, unlike some spots in the cities."
The state, the DNR, and Otter Tail County have all been battling aquatic invasives for a number of years. Efforts continue to ramp up as awareness grows, with lake associations and special task forces getting in on the action.
Otter Tail County commissioners just this summer agreed to put up some informational billboards about aquatic invasives, and volunteers have begun spending time at public accesses to help educate others on the topic.
Still, invasives continue to spread.
Statewide, there are now more than 600 lakes and rivers on the DNR's Designated Infested Waters List, plus numerous other unnamed ponds and wetlands. Zebra Mussel infestation alone is up 235 percent since 2009.
For more information about aquatic invasive species, and to read the DNR's full list of Designated Infested Waters, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/index _aquatic.html.
WHAT CAN I DO?
To help prevent the spread of aquatic invasives, follow the laws:
Clean visible aquatic plants and debris from watercraft, trailers and equipment before transporting them from any water access.
Drain water from the bilge, livewell, motor, ballast tanks and portable bait containers before leaving water accesses or shoreline property. Also, keep the drain plug out and any water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft.
Dump unwanted bait in the trash.
The DNR also recommends spraying watercraft with a high-pressure water system and rinsing with very hot water after use. Another option is to let the watercraft and any related equipment dry for at least five days before using it again.
Nathan Olson, the Perham area's aquatic invasive species contact with the DNR, also reminds people to check for invasives when taking out docks and lifts, and when selling or buying water-related equipment.
A new law effective July 1 requires that all boat lifts, docks and swim rafts must be completely dry for 21 days, including rainfall, before being used again. Olson said the best thing to do is buy at the end of the season, then wait until the following spring before putting anything back in the water.
To report any possible infestations, call Olson at 218-739-7576, ext. 259.
Tips are the DNR's best source of finding new infestations, Olson said: "Most of the finds come from citizen calls."