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Zebra Mussels

If you plan to head out with your boat to area waterways, you'll want to make sure you don't bring something unwanted back with you. Michele Skalicky reports.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is asking boaters to take steps to prevent the zebra mussel from spreading. The striped, triangular-shaped mussel has been found in a few waterways in Missouri, including the Mississippi River and the Lake of the Ozarks. It first came to the U.S. from the Caspian Sea in the late 80s in the ballast tanks of ocean-going ships. After it gained a foothold in the Great Lakes, it began spreading thru the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Steve McMurray, resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, says there are several reasons why boaters should be vigilant about checking for zebra mussels.

Economically, zebra mussels can impact industry by clogging water intake structures. At an electric company or wastewater treatment plant, that impact is felt immediately by consumers. Zebra Mussels can also get into the motors of boats kept in the water and cause damage. Steve McMurray says there are chemicals availble to kill zebra mussels in waterways, but they're expensive and they also affect native species. The best approach is prevention. McMurray says that's where boaters enter the picture.

Zebra mussel larvae are the size of a grain of salt and aren't easily detectable, so thtey can be carried in mud from lake to lake.

McMurray says, generally, if a boat has been in the water for a day or two, the chances it will have zebra mussels that are visible to the naked eye, are small. That's why he says they're most concerned about the larvae, which can remain alive in water left in the live well of a boat.

For more information about zebra mussels, go to www.mdc.mo.gov/nathis/exotic.