SHAWNEE, Okla. (KFOR) – State wildlife officials are warning Oklahomans that invasive zebra mussels, which can cause a variety of problems for wildlife, boats and infrastructure, have been found in lakes in Shawnee and Ardmore, and are also present in several bodies of water throughout Oklahoma.
Ardmore City Lake and Shawnee Twin Lakes now both contain zebra mussels, the first time for each lake, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC).
Zebra mussels – named for their shell’s striped pattern, and usually found attached to surfaces, objects and other mussels – invade ecosystems and damage boat engines, threaten native mussels, fish and wildlife by consuming available food and clog water intakes and pipes, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
The ODWC’s Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) program confirmed invasive zebra mussels are in 24 bodies of water across the state, including Kaw, Sooner, Hefner, Keystone, Robert S. Kerr, Grand, Skiatook, Eufaula, Oologah, Claremore, Greenleaf and Texoma lakes, as well as in the lower Canadian, Cimarron, Arkansas, Verdigris, Washita and North Canadian rivers.
It only takes two or three years for zebra mussels to significantly populate a body of water, ODWC officials said.
There is no feasible way to eliminate invasive mussels once they arrive. The best action is to stop them from spreading, said Fisheries Biologist Katie Schrag, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the Wildlife Department.
Boaters and other people who use waters infested with zebra mussels can slow or stop the spread of the mussel by using the “Clean, Drain, Dry” procedure.
“To fight zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species, please remember to drain bilge water, live wells, and bait buckets; inspect your boat and trailer when leaving the water; scrape off any zebra mussels or aquatic vegetation found when on dry land; then wash and dry off your boat, trailer and accessories,” ODWC officials said.
Go to StopAquaticHitchhikers.org or www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/ans/zebra-mussel for more information on the “Clean, Drain, Dry” procedure.
Oklahomans are asked not to return invasive species to a body of water, and are encouraged to report them to ODWC by calling (918) 683-1031.
Go to www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/ans to learn more about aquatic nuisance species in Oklahoma.