Border Checks Aim to Keep Invasive Species Out of Montana


HELENA, Mont. — Boat owners bringing watercraft into Montana may be asked to stop for a brief inspection and possible boat cleaning this summer as part of a cooperative effort to keep zebra and quagga mussels and other invasive species out of the state.

Montana has four mobile inspection stations that will move among major highway entry points on weekends through Sept. 15. Additional check stations will operate in conjunction with fishing tournaments that attract non-resident boaters, and at other popular boat launch sites. Stations will be staffed by the Montana Departments of Agriculture and Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

The effort is part of a multi-state "Inspect, Clean and Dry" campaign to prevent movement of invasive mussels, weeds and disease organisms into the region's lakes, reservoirs, streams and irrigation canals.

Where they have been introduced, quagga and zebra mussels and aquatic weeds take a heavy toll on irrigation, water supply and hydroelectric facilities as well as on native fish populations and the environment, says state Agriculture Director Ron de Yong.

Boat owners are urged to adopt the following practices to prevent the introduction of mussels:

  • Inspect all exposed surfaces. Small mussels feel like sandpaper to the touch.
  • Wash the hull thoroughly, preferably with hot water
  • Remove all plant and animal material and mud
  • Drain all water and dry all areas
  • Dispose of bait in the trash
  • Keep watercraft dry between launches into different fresh waters

Zebra and quagga mussels originated in Eastern Europe. They were introduced via shipping to the Great Lakes and have spread to other waterways as close to Montana as Utah and Colorado, likely attached to boats or contained in mud and liquids not removed when water craft were transported.

Mussel larvae can be microscopic and difficult to detect. Fingernail-sized adults can clog intake pipes and other structures and rob food supplies for native aquatic populations.

Owners whose boats have been in mussel-infested waters are urged to be extra careful to avoid species transmission. They can contact Eileen Rice, Fish Wildlife & Parks aquatic nuisance coordinator at (406) 444-2449, or Erik Hanson, Montana invasive species coordinator, at (406) 431-3209 for more information.

Invasive weeds and other organisms also are of concern. Within the past two years, Eurasian Watermilfoil, a water weed sometimes found in fish tanks, has been found in Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Reservoirs on the Clark Fork River. A containment plan has been proposed for those waterways, Hanson says. Education is planned for pet stores and plant nurseries that could inadvertently transport invasive species.

For more information about aquatic invasive species, contact a Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office or the Montana Department of Agriculture at (406) 431-3209.


Published: June 8, 2010 3:30:00 PM MDT.
Last Modified: May 17, 2011 9:28:54 AM MDT