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Record Of Mussel-Infested Boats Already Broken This Year, Wildlife Officials Say

Katrin Frye
Watercraft inspection station sign.

Montana wildlife officials have detected a record number of boats carrying invasive mussels at inspection stations throughout the state. The number of mussel-fouled boats found passing through Montana in 2021 has surpassed last year’s number, which at the time was double any year on record.

Invasive mussels pose risks to water, power and irrigation infrastructure and Montana’s outdoor recreation industry.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Aquatic Invasive Species Information Officer Liz Lodman says two boats coming from the Midwest were intercepted in Wibaux and Hardin Sunday with dead invasive mussels on board.

Then a boat coming from Arizona was picked up at the Dillon check station Tuesday.

“And it was mussel-infested, and it did appear that the mussels were viable. So they were still alive,” Lodman says.

Staff at the station were unable to inspect and clean the entire boat, but the vessel was locked to the trailer and FWP contacted officials in Idaho as the owner was headed for Coeur d’Alene.

The boat passing through Dillon was the 37th mussel-fouled boat intercepted in Montana so far in 2021, setting a new record for the second year in a row. 

“And it’s not even July Fourth yet,” Lodman says.

Lodman says many residents of western states, including Montana, are buying boats out of the Midwest or southwestern U.S., where invasive mussels are common. She says the record number of interceptions are a reminder for people purchasing boats from other states to clean, drain and dry the vessel.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.