The Aquatic Invasive Species program in northeast Wyoming inspected a record number of watercraft during the 2020 season.
Aquatic invasive species are plant or animal species that can cause substantial harm to ecosystems, municipal water supplies, recreation, agriculture and other commercial activities. The most worrisome AIS are zebra and quagga mussels, which are native to Eurasia and have tiny byssal threads that allow them to attach to hard substrates like watercraft hulls, rocks, or other infrastructure in the water
To prevent the spread of AIS, check stations were operated in the Sheridan Region from April 18 through Sept. 27, and over 10,000 watercraft were inspected. After thorough inspections 71 watercraft required a decontamination to eliminate the biological risk of contaminating the watercraft’s next water. In 2019, Sheridan Region AIS personnel inspected 5,768 watercraft and performed 32 decontaminations.
Again this year, the most common reason for needing a decontamination was standing water inside the watercraft that could harbor AIS. Fifty-six of the 71 total decontaminations were performed at the Northeast Wyoming Welcome Center, on the South Dakota border, due to the rising number of zebra/quagga positive waters in that state.
Three boats were inspected that required a full decontamination including removal of mussels. One of these boats was from Mille Lacs Lake, MN, one from Lake Ontario and the other was from Virginia. Inspectors saw boats registered in 47 different states and four Canandian provinces that had been last used on waters of 54 different states/provinces.
Wyoming is currently one of only five states in the continuous U.S. that has no confirmed occurrences of zebra/quagga. Other invasive species like Asian clams and curly pondweed have populations in Wyoming waters and all water users need to remember to clean, drain and dry anytime they leave a body of water.