Zebra mussels … Texas update, a mussel sniffing dog, tough laws in New Mexico, and maybe some help in the future?

The search for zebra mussels is now part of the boating culture not only in Texas, but in freshwater water bodies across the United States.

In Texas, the latest lakes are classified as infested with zebra mussels: Texoma, Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Bridgeport, Dean Gilbert (a 45-acre Community Fishing Lake in Sherman) and Belton. Lakes Waco and Lavon are classified as positive for zebra mussels. Lakes Fork and Ray Hubbard, and Fishing Hole Lake, are classified as suspect.

Zebra mussels have also been found in the Red River below Texoma, the Elm Fork of the Trinity River below Ray Roberts, the Leon River below Belton and had been found in Sister Grove Creek (considered likely eradicated). A boat with zebra mussels attached was found in Ray Hubbard…..

In Minnesota, you may get a chance to meet Brady, a zebra mussel sniffing dog. “He’s a zebra mussel detector dog,” DNR Conservation officer Julie Siems said. Brady is one of two zebra mussel sniffing dogs used by the DNR and trained solely to detect that small shell-like creature.

“To them, it’s just a game. They’re trained like any other narcotics dog. They’re just a detection dog,” Officer Siems said.

Using his nose as his guide, the lab-mix recently was scanning boats and trailers going in and out of Lake Independence on Saturday morning.

Brady found no threats to the water. But when Julie purposely hid the target in her boat, the scent of invasive species pulled Brady in the right direction.  Any time he detects a zebra mussel, he sits near the location.

“I believe him.  Every time he sits, I trust him,” Officer Siems said.

For a job well done, he’s rewarded in a way only a dog can appreciate. “He gets his ball, it’s all he wants,” Officer Siems said.

New Mexico has new laws regarding boat inspection and possible decontamination before launching in state waters.

Mandatory watercraft inspection required any time an inspection station is set up and in operation; mandatory inspection and, if necessary, decontamination of all out-of-state registered watercraft or watercraft entering or re-entering the state of New Mexico; fourteen-day advance notification of intent to transport watercraft 26 feet long or longer into New Mexico; a requirement to “pull the plug” and drain watercraft when transporting in New Mexico.

And a possible answer to zebra mussels…

Texas is looking into an up-and-coming pesticide that attacks zebra mussels and zebra mussels alone. Daniel Molloy, a research scientist at the State University of New York at Albany, created a bacterium that gave way to an environmentally safe pesticide called Zequanox.

Once Marrone Bio Innovations — a bio-based pest management company located in California — finishes commercializing the product, companies in Texas may buy Zequanox to rid their pipes of the invasive mussel, without harming native species. “In fact, the warmer the water is, we have seen in our tests, the more effective the kill is,” Molloy says.

Molloy’s environmentally friendly pesticide may bring relief to lakeside companies where the product can be used to treat enclosed water infrastructure, such as water storage chambers of power plants, pump stations, irrigation systems, industrial and manufacturing facilities and dams,

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibits treatment of Zequanox in open water and “unconfined infrastructure.” This means fishing boats, marinas, and pipes exposed to open waters are off limits for Zequanox.

“A lot of lake associations are hearing about this product called Zequanox and they say, ‘Hey, we want to get rid of them from our lakes,’” said Malloy. “There is nothing on the market today that can be used to eradicate — eliminate — zebra mussels from a lake but it may be possible in smaller, high value areas like a beach or a marina.”

Van Zee, TPWD representative, says Zequanox is still in the “developing stages, but it looks promising” for Texas. The US Army Corps of Engineers is currently researching the product as well.


Tom Behrens: