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Zebra mussels in new territory

As lakeshore residents begin to pull in their docks, lifts and other equipment from the water, they're finding zebra mussels, such as this cluster of the invasive species that attached to the bottom of a water trampoline on Lake L'Homme Dieu. Echo Press photo by Celeste Beam

It's that time of year again when homeowners on area lakes are beginning to pull their docks, lifts and other equipment out of the water.

But this year, lakeshore property owners on several area lakes - L'Homme Dieu, Carlos, Darling, Geneva, Victoria, Jessie and Alvin - need to keep a watchful eye on everything they bring in.

Every nook and cranny needs to be inspected for an invasive species - zebra mussels - that have found their way into two area lakes.

A Lake L'Homme Dieu resident on Robinson's Bay, which is on the southwest corner of the lake, notified the Department of Natural Resources last week when he brought in a water slide and water trampoline that have been in the water since about the Fourth of July.

Dozens of small, micro-sized zebra mussels called veligers were found on both pieces of equipment. The bottom of the trampoline had a ring of zebra mussels on it and some were even found hidden in the rope and PVC pipe ladder, according to Nathan Olson, an invasive species specialist with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) out of Fergus Falls.

Olson said zebra mussels will attach to anything submerged in water with a hard surface - metal, wood, rubber tubes (such as trampolines), rafts, ropes, fiberglass and more.

"When people are pulling their stuff out of the water, we want them to check any part that has been in the water," stressed Olson. "We want them to check thoroughly."

If zebra mussels are found on any lake - besides L'Homme Dieu and Carlos (which have already been designated as infested) - the DNR wants to know about it. People can either call Olson at (218) 739-7576, extension 259 or call the DNR office in Glenwood at (320) 634-4573.

Olson also noted that if homeowners find zebra mussels on items pulled from the water, for instance a dock, they should let them dry out for at least five days to make sure the zebra mussels dry up. After that time, they can be carefully swept off or removed and thrown in the garbage.

"You might have to look hard to find the adults," said Olson, "but the small ones are everywhere."

At the end of June, adult zebra mussels were found on L'Homme Dieu and at that time, the DNR immediately added it to the DNR infested waters list.

In July, six more lakes, which are connected to Lake L'Homme Dieu, were added to the list - Carlos, Darling, Geneva, Victoria, Jessie and Alvin. Olson said adding these lakes to the infested waters list makes it easier for the DNR to enforce the rules.

According to the DNR, zebra mussel veligers, which are larvae or baby mussels, can drift along between the lakes, as well as on boats traveling through the chain of lakes, which is why the lakes were listed on the infested waters list.