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Snail infestation forces Montana hatchery to destroy most of its fish

Michal Maňas - Maňas M.
Wikimedia Commons
An invasive New Zealand mud snail

State fishery managers say they have to kill fish at a hatchery in south-central Montana after a resilient species of invasive snail took over for the second time in recent years.

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks announced this week that staff will purge all largemouth bass and more than half of the rainbow trout at the Bluewater State Fish Hatchery, east of Bridger, due to a resurgence of the invasive New Zealand mud snail.

Fisheries division administrator Eileen Ryce said the snails first appeared at the hatchery in 2020. She said FWP staff “think the mud snails have actually crawled up from the creek, up the effluent discharge pipes and then they became established within the hatchery.”

She said source of the current infestation is unknown, but the snails might have survived decontamination efforts in 2020 by escaping through the cracks in the facility’s concrete holding tanks.

FWP says the value of the fish together with the cost of current decontamination efforts is estimated at $225,000. Some rainbow trout in another section of the fishery unaffected by snails will still go on to stock water bodies in the south, central and eastern parts of the state.

The hatchery will also distribute edible, adult bass to children under 12 and people with fishing licenses from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.