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DNR checking reports of zebra mussels in Detroit, West Battle lakes

by Mike McFeely

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has received reports of zebra mussels in a couple of high-profile area lakes, but has not been able to confirm their presence.

Divers have been searching Detroit Lake in Becker County and West Battle Lake in Otter Tail County after the DNR received citizen reports about the possible presence of zebra mussels, according to DNR invasive species specialist Joe Eisterhold.

"We haven't been able to confirm anything," he said. "The feeling is that they could probably be in there, but it is not confirmed."

Zebra mussels are a fingernail-sized clam that can have a detrimental impact on the ecology and recreation value of water bodies. According to the DNR web site:

Zebra mussels can cause problems for lakeshore residents and recreationists. Homeowners that take lake water to water lawns can have their intakes clogged. Mussels may attach to motors and possibly clog cooling water areas. Shells can cause cuts and scrapes if they grow large enough on rocks, swim rafts and ladders. Anglers may lose tackle as the shells can cut fishing line. Zebra mussels can also attach to native mussels, killing them.
Zebra mussels filter plankton from the surrounding water. This filtering can increase water clarity, which might cause more aquatic vegetation to grow at deeper depths and more dense stands. If a lake has high numbers of mussels over large areas, this filter feeding could impact the food chain, reducing food for larval fish.

The mussels have spread rapidly in recent years in the Detroit Lakes/Pelican Rapids area, infesting popular lakes like Pelican, Lizzie and Lida. 

The DNR will work closely with lake associations and lake-service providers over the next several weeks to gather more information about zebra mussels in the Detroit Lakes/Pelican Rapids area, Eisterhold said.

"As people remove their docks and boat lifts, they should check those items closely because mussels will often attach to them," Eisterhold said.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)