Aquatic invasive species watercraft check stations opened in the Sheridan Region on April 13. During the next few months, Game and Fish personnel will inspect thousands of boats from dozens of states as they pass through or come to Wyoming.
Aquatic invasive species are plants or animals that are not native to an area and once introduced and established, can cause significant damage or impact to the local ecosystem, municipal water supplies, agricultural operations, recreational waters and other activities.
We receive many questions each year from boaters and other recreationists about their responsibilities and how they can help prevent the spread of AIS. Below are several common questions we address annually.
What is an AIS decal and do I need one?
The AIS decal funds the AIS program in Wyoming. A decal is required for all watercraft except nonmotorized inflatables under 10 feet long. It is available at any license-selling agent or on the WGFD website. Watercraft includes hard-sided and inflatable kayaks, canoes and rafts, as well as motorized and nonmotorized boats.
What is a watercraft inspection and how long will it take?
At an AIS check station, an authorized inspector will ask a few questions to determine the risk of an AIS threat and then perform a standard inspection, which takes about five minutes. If your watercraft is deemed high risk, it will have a more thorough high-risk inspection. High-risk watercraft are watercraft with large amounts of standing water, lots of attached vegetation or boats coming from AIS positive waters.
Who needs to stop?
Any watercraft transported into Wyoming from March 1 through Nov. 30 must undergo a mandatory inspection by an authorized inspector prior to launching in any water of the state. Water of the state includes anywhere in Wyoming but excludes Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. However, Grand Teton National Park is included.
If I take my boat to Tongue River Reservoir in Montana, do I need an inspection?
Yes, Montana requires all watercraft coming from out of state be inspected prior to launching on any Montana water. WGFD has an agreement with Montana that enables boaters to be inspected by any Wyoming-certified inspector to fulfill Montana requirements.
If I return into Wyoming from Tongue River Reservoir or another Montana water, do I have to have my boat inspected?
Yes, anytime a watercraft enters from out of state between March 1 and Nov. 30 it must be inspected prior to launching in any Wyoming water. If you last boated at any positive water (Tiber or Canyon Ferry in Montana) no matter the time of year, you must be inspected prior to launching in Wyoming.
What if I am traveling with my boat and encounter more than one check station. Do I have to stop at all of them or just the first one?
Yes, you must stop at each open check station you pass on your entire route of travel even if your boat has already been inspected at an earlier station.
What if I launch on a water in another state where AIS are known to occur, but I do not encounter a check station on my way home?
If your boat has been in a mussel suspect/AIS positive water in the last 30 days, you MUST have your boat inspected before launching in Wyoming during any time of year. You can take your boat to an open AIS check station or contact your regional Game and Fish office for an inspection during regular business hours.
How do I found out which waters in our region have AIS?
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department website (www.wgfd.wyo.gov) has a large amount of information on AIS, as well as maps of Wyoming waters where various AIS have been documented, as well as a national map noting infested/AIS positive waters.
What happens if you find an AIS and my boat has to be decontaminated?
An authorized inspector will thoroughly spray the exterior and flush the interior compartments with 140 degrees F water to remove and kill any AIS. After decontamination, the watercraft will be inspected again to ensure decontamination was successful. Watercraft heavily infested with AIS may be quarantined.
Could I just do the decontamination myself at home with bleach?
No. Hot water or drying are the only approved decontamination methods in Wyoming. Chemicals such as bleach are not proven to be effective in killing all AIS and may damage your watercraft and equipment.
What else should I know?
In 2017, AIS law was amended and now requires all visible vegetation be removed from a watercraft/trailer once it leaves the water. All bilge/ballast/live well plugs must be removed from the watercraft while transported in the state.
Reed Moore is a Sheridan Region aquatic invasive species coordinator for Wyoming Game and Fish Department.