The Missouri Department of Conservation is working with duck hunters to help prevent the spread of invasive species in Missouri’s waterways.
Zebra mussels have been found in some of Missouri’s larger lakes like Truman, according to Kenda Flores with the MDC. Fellows Lake, a popular destination for duck hunters in Greene County, doesn’t have zebra mussels. However, Flores said the agency discovered the lake does have hydrilla, an aquatic plant and invasive species.
“One of the big floods this year shifted the tubers - hydrilla produces tubers - and it started reproducing in Fellows (Lake),” Flores said.
Tubers are like bulbs found on other plants. However, they don’t freeze during the winter, which makes it hard for the MDC to get rid of them.
Duck hunters, she says, have a greater risk of spreading hyrdilla between bodies of water because they use a lot of gear that comes into contact with water.
“Water-fowlers carry so much equipment,” Flores said. “The decoys, Ben will tell you he gets mud on the decoys when he pulls up the anchors. Even the dog, we’d like to see you towel the dog off before we go home.”
Hunting dogs will often wear vests for protection and to keep warm, but aquatic vegetation could become caught in them.
Ben Parnell is a fisheries biologist and a duck hunter. He said it isn’t uncommon for hunters to travel between different bodies of water in a single day.
“You can hunt a dog in one body of water and then hunt it in another the same day,” Parnell said. “So you can hunt a farm pond in Greene County that has hydrilla and then go hunt Stockton Lake in the afternoon.”
Other states have taken tougher stances to try and curb the spread of invasive species, according to Flores. Some lakes require people to take their boats through check stations before getting on the water and go as far as using dogs to help check for invasive species such as zebra mussels.
Flores said Missouri currently does not require boats to pass through any check stations and relies on hunters and boaters to check and clean personal equipment themselves.
“We don’t want to have check stations where we enforce all of this,” Flores said.
The state is divided into a north zone, middle zone and south zone for waterfowl hunting. Springfield is located in the south zone and the season is divided into two parts; Nov. 23-Nov. 26 and again Dec. 4-Jan. 28.