Aquatic Invasive Species

A scubadiver holds a rock covered in quagga mussels on Lake Michigan in 2017.
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio

Montana’s U.S. Senators on Wednesday introduced a bill aimed at stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels. They have the potential to devastate hydro-electric systems and public water pipes and take over lakes.

A scubadiver holds a rock covered in quagga mussels on Lake Michigan in 2017.
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has started the process to lift quarantine restrictions on Canyon Ferry Reservoir following a third year of no detections of invasive mussels.

Tiny New Zealand mud snails surround a dime for scale.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks


The first discovery of an invasive snail west of the Continental Divide in Montana is pushing wildlife officials to quarantine a fish hatchery south of Hamilton.

There was something odd bubbling beneath the surface of Flathead Lake earlier this summer, but it wasn’t a lake monster. It was a submarine. Two, in fact. The subs' pilots were there to help cash-strapped researchers physically see the mostly unexplored depths of Flathead Lake for the unforgettable price of free.

Flathead Lake continues to defy national trends as a healthy blue body of water that’s free of invasive mussels. That’s according to the director of the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station, who gave his annual state of the lake address Friday. 

Man stands cleaning the bottom of a watercraft
Lake Mead NRA Public Affairs / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Montana inspectors have intercepted 13 boats carrying a destructive invasive mussel this season. Larvae from zebra and quagga mussels were first detected in Tiber Reservoir in 2016, but haven't been detected in the state's waters since then.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and partner agencies have checked more than 52,000 watercraft since inspection stations opened this spring.

The National Park Service Hammerhead Crew catches a non-native lake trout in Yellowstone Lake, June 17, 2015.
Public Domain

Yellowstone National Park will temporarily ban wakeboard boats and plans to gate boat launches this season to reduce the risk of introducing new invasive species in park waters.

The tamarisk plant, also called saltcedar, is infesting waterways across the West. The scaly-leafed shrub can grow taller than a person. It sucks up a lot of water and spits out salt, making the soil around it too salty for other plants to grow.

“It’s very bad, yes,” says Alex Gaffke, a graduate student in land resources and environmental science at Montana State University.

Western governors want to see more federal action to combat tiny but destructive creatures: invasive mussels.

A quagga mussel is only about the size of your thumbnail. But when the little mollusk reproduces en masse, it can wreak havoc on agriculture and lake tourism.

Wherever you go, you leave behind a tiny trace of yourself, a fingerprint even smaller than a cell that says you were here. Every organism does this, including the invasive quagga and zebra mussels the state is trying to keep out of Montana. This summer, a team of scientists in the Flathead Valley is using cutting-edge technology to detect the mussels’ genetic fingerprints sooner. They say early detection may offer the only hope for eradicating the mussels if they do get here.

Pages