Zebra Mussels Found in North Dakota’s Ashtabula Lake, Sheyenne and Red Rivers

experts say people will need to check their boats and wash them to reduce the chances of the invasive species spreading

FARGO, N.D. –Game and Fish finds zebra mussels in one of North Dakota’s lakes.

The last time they were found in the Red River in 2015.

Zebra mussels were first found in the U.S. back in 1988, after contaminated cargo ships from Eastern Europe and Western Russia entered the Great Lakes.

“Over the last 35 years, we’ve seen the gradual spread of zebra mussels across Minnesota through the lakes region into the Red River and now unfortunately, Lake Ashtabula and the upper end of the Sheyenne River,” said Doug Leier, a biologist at Game and Fish.

This comes after inspections of the lake in Barnes and Griggs counties.

And they’re not going away anytime soon.

“You cannot get rid of zebra mussels after they get into a body of water,” Leier said.

He says zebra mussels plug water intake structures, disrupt the food chain in a body of water and when dead, the sharp, invasive species often wash up on shore and cause safety issues.

While you may not be able to get rid of them, he says you can slow down the spread of them from one body of water to another.

“What we want anglers and recreationalist boaters to try to do is to prevent the spread or the jump of zebra mussels from Lake Ashtabula to another body of water whether it’s in North Dakota, whether it’s very close by, or whether they’re going to be taking their boat to another state and another completely different region,” Leier said.

Boating experts say one of the best ways to do so is by doing a deep clean of your boat.

“What we need to be working on is taking our hall plugs out, draining our boats, rinsing our boats off, taking off any debris whether that’s weeds or mud. Whatever you’re bringing with you, rinse all of that off. We don’t want to transfer it from different lake to lake,” said Matt Richardson, sales manager at U Motors, Inc.

Emergency rules are in effect to stop the movement of water away from Lake Ashtabula and the Sheyenne and Red Rivers.

Dave Hutchenson used to live in Moorhead but now lives in Idaho, where everyone must have their boats checked for invasive species at designated checkpoints.

At the end of the day, he says no amount of checkpoints can make a person responsible.

“You can have all the checkpoints you want but it’s a personal responsibility really. If you’re going to put a boat into the Red, it’d probably be a good idea to check your boat before you introduce it to another lake,” Hutchenson said.

Game and Fish says it will step up monitoring of the lake and rivers.

If you find zebra mussels in other bodies of water in the state, the department has an invasive species form on their website.

Categories: Community, Health, Local News, North Dakota News