An Alien Invasion in our Midst

Stephanie Cortez

As summer approaches, or in Wisconsin’s case spring… and many people start hitting the beaches and lakes for warm weather activities including swimming, boating, fishing, etc. it’s likely you might come across an aquatic invasive species called zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels are an aquatic nuisance species that can causebillions of dollars in economic damages including industrial damage from clogged water pipes and restricted water flow of water intake systems of power plants and water treatment facilities. They also threaten native species and biodiversity.

These little alien invaders have already infested at least 130 Wisconsin lakes and rivers. You might bewondering why you should even care? Because how do they affect you? Although very small these guys can have a large and negative impact on many recreational activities. Because their filtering nature increases water clarity it leads to higher light penetration reaching the bottom ofthe lake or river. The increased light penetration fosters growth of aquatic weeds. This aquatic plant growth can then interfere with boaters, anglers, and swimmers. Zebra mussels also pollute beaches where they pile up when they die, wash up on the shore and decay. Their shells are razor sharp and can cut your feet. Even when they’re dead they create problemsand clean up cost are high. They will colonize just about any hard surface and can destroy fishing nets and navigational buoys, dragging them under water and making them useless. They also attach to boat hulls and motors, increasing drag, causing overheating and other damages. If you’ve ever had your feet cut up at the beach or been tangled up in weeds while swimming, boating, or tubing, these little creature might be the ones to blame!

Even though they seem to be everywhere, there are still some lakes that have not been infested yet and there are ways in which we can prevent their spread. There are very easy things we can all do to protect our lakes as we enjoy them this summer. One way you can help is just by inspecting and cleaning your boats and other equipment after each time you use it. If you’d like to get more involved than that you can also become a Clean Boats, Clean Waters volunteer. As a volunteer you can learn many things while serving on the frontline in protecting our lakes from evil invasives. You can learn how to educate boaters about invasive species, perform boat and trailer checks, and some volunteers even help collect samples and data for monitoring efforts. If you are interested in becoming a Clean Boats, Clean Waters volunteer you can find out more about these programs on the Clean Boats, Clean Waters website, just type in the following link: http:// CBCW/default.asp or contact someone via email at uwexlakes@ You can also check out the Wisconsin DNRs webpage: prevention.html or Wisconsin Lakes at

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