Since 2010, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been working to prevent aquatic invasive species from becoming established in Wyoming waters. Zebra and quagga mussels pose the biggest threat to Wyoming. Currently they are not present in Wyoming, but they are near our borders in Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and now in Montana.
In the summer of 2016, zebra or quagga mussel larvae were detected in Tiber Reservoir in Montana and some suspect results were detected in Canyon Ferry Reservoir, the Missouri River and the Milk River in Montana. In response to these new discoveries, we would like to remind anyone who boats outside of Wyoming that they must have their boat inspected prior to launching in Wyoming and that all boaters should remember to drain, clean and dry their boat and gear after leaving the water. Standing water, plants and mud can all potentially spread AIS. Some species like New Zealand mudsnail, Asian clam, curly pondweed and brook stickleback are already established in Wyoming, and we hope to prevent these AIS from reaching new waters.
The AIS program conducts water quality sampling and shoreline monitoring on streams and lakes to detect new populations of AIS and also to document native species. With plankton nets, we are able to retrieve phytoplankton, zooplankton and microorganisms that are suspended in the water column in lakes to check for the presence of zebra or quagga mussel larvae. We send our samples to the Bureau of Reclamation lab in Denver and also to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lab in Helena for analyses.
For 2017, we will continue to operate our Sheridan AIS check station at the Port of Entry north of Sheridan. The check station will be open from late April to late September. We will also conduct boat inspections at Lake DeSmet regularly throughout the summer. Any person transporting a boat into the state by land from March 1 through Nov. 30 must have the boat inspected prior to launching in Wyoming. Inspections only take a few minutes, however this is time well spent, as detection of an invasive species could prevent problems for many, many years.
AIS decals are now available online and at the WGFD office in Sheridan. Non-motorized boats, inflatable boats over 10 feet in length and all boats with motors are required to display an AIS decal each year. If you purchase a boat from out-of-state or you suspect you may have found AIS in a new location, please contact WGFD at 1-877-WGFD-AIS.
This spring, WGFD will be offering a free training to the public for individuals or businesses that would like to become a certified AIS Inspector. Those who complete the course will receive education on AIS in Wyoming and the resources needed to complete boat inspections. For more information about the AIS Inspector course, contact the AIS Specialist in Sheridan at 307-672-7418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Locatelli is an aquatic invasive species specialist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.