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Game and Fish

Anglers, Boaters Asked to Help Prevent the Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species

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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking the public for help in protecting Wyoming waters from aquatic invasive species. These organisms represent a very real threat to the state because of the ecological, recreational and economic impacts they can have.

"Aquatic invasive species are organisms that are introduced into new ecosystems. Many of these species are harmful to the natural resources in the ecosystem and threaten human uses of these resources," explains Mike Stone, chief of fisheries for the Game and Fish. The department is focusing its attention on two particular aquatic invasive species that are posing an immediate threat to Wyoming - zebra mussels and quagga mussels.

Zebra and quagga mussels are non-native species, invading North American from the Black, Aral and Caspian Seas. They were most likely transported to Europe and then North American in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. Though separate species, they are very similar in appearance and impact. In general, these mussels attach to hard surfaces like boats, piers, pipes and other equipment. They are often found in clusters and reproduce quickly - a single female is capable of producing more than 1 million eggs a year.

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"There are no known populations of these mussels in Wyoming to date, but they have invaded waters across the country and are now present in three of our neighboring states - Colorado, Nebraska and Utah," says Stone. "These species have had tremendous impacts to water bodies, recreation and even drinking water supplies in other states."

Annually, the cost of invasive species in the United States amounts to more than $100 billion each year. Heavy infestations of these species can alter aquatic environments by reducing food sources for game fish. They can clog water intakes on motors, overheating and ruining boat engines. They can also attach themselves to the prop and other areas of the motor, either affecting the performance of the engine or actually jamming steering equipment. Aquatic invasive species can increase the operating costs of drinking water plants, power plants, dam maintenance and industrial processes.

Anglers and boaters and other are asked to help by ensuring they aren't spreading invasive species from one body of water to another. Overland transport on boats, motors, trailers and other watercraft poses the greatest risk for spreading aquatic invasive species, so it's important to properly care for equipment. Before leaving a body of water, but while on dry land, the Game and Fish asks for the following:

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Drain every conceivable space that can hold water, including engines, live wells or ballast tanks or even just the inside of your canoe, kayak or raft.

Clean any and all equipment by removing plants, mud and other debris.

Use a potassium chloride solution (mix 1 teaspoon potassium chloride crystals with 2 gallons of water) to wash equipment. Potassium chloride is deadly to many aquatic invasive species but harmless to other aquatic organisms and humans.

Allow all equipment to thoroughly dry before launching in another body of water.

"It's critical for the boating and angling public to fully cooperate in order to protect recreation opportunities and water supplies in Wyoming and prevent the spread of these damaging organisms," says Stone. "Prevention remains our best defense against these aquatic invasive species."

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