Yellowstone battling invasive mussels Quagga Mussel Buckrail - Jackson Hole, news
Quagga mussels cling to a boat prop. Photo: NPS

WYOMING — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) issued a press release Friday expressing concern over the recent detection of quagga mussel veligers (larvae) in the Waterfront Park area of the Snake River near Twin Falls. WGFD said the inadvertent movement of invasive mussels into the state through watercraft could cause problems for waterways in Wyoming and beyond.

“The threat of invasive mussels to Wyoming’s waters continues to escalate with now five of the six bordering states containing populations of zebra or quagga mussels,” WGFD said. “Currently, the infested area does not include the Snake River above Shoshone Falls.”

Quagga mussels have emerged alongside zebra mussels as one of the most aggressive invasive species infesting the United States, WGFD says. Once the veligers find a suitable surface to attach to, they stick themselves to the surface and develop into adults. Because they are so persistent and competitive, invasive mussels have the potential to cause fishery collapses and significant damage to water treatment facilities, hydroelectric power generators and irrigation systems, amongst other impacts. Since Wyoming is a headwater state, these impacts would cascade down the Columbia, Colorado and Missouri river drainages if they become established here.

According to WGFD, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture has not found live quagga mussel larvae in any other Idaho waterbody this is the first detection within the uninfested Columbia River Basin. 

“We are confident in Idaho’s robust AIS program and the actions they are taking to initiate containment, but are still confronting this aggressively,” Josh Leonard, Game and Fish AIS coordinator said. “Game and Fish is increasing our diligence to inspect and decontaminate watercraft coming from the infested area.” 

This is the second time in less than one year that quagga and zebra mussels have been found in a body of water close to the Wyoming border, WGFD said.

While Wyoming still remains free of quagga and zebra mussels, the threat of infestation continues to grow. In May alone, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department intercepted five watercraft containing invasive mussels coming into the state at AIS watercraft inspection stations. 

In Wyoming, it’s a state law that all boaters must stop when coming upon an AIS inspection station — even if they stopped at one prior or do not intend to launch in Wyoming, from March 1 to Nov. 30. This applies to anyone with a watercraft, which includes but is not limited to kayaks, canoes, rafts and paddleboards.

If the watercraft was used on a water suspect or positive for invasive mussels in the last 30 days, it must be inspected prior to launching year-round and may require decontamination. Full rules are available online.

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.