Wyoming Invasive Response Team evaluating potential impacts from zebra mussel discovery

A zebra mussel found in a commercially sold moss ball. (Photo courtesy of WYG&F)

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture convened a meeting Friday of Wyoming’s Invasive Mussel Response Team. 

The team, formed by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, is a multi-agency effort to stop the spread of and limit impacts from invasive zebra mussels in Wyoming. In early March, zebra mussels were identified for the first time in the state on moss ball products sold in pet stores. 

The response team also includes representatives from multiple agencies including the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, Wyoming Department of Transportation and more. According to a Game and Fish news release, the team’s forefront challenge is to continue to stop the spread of zebra mussels to any of Wyoming’s natural waters. 

“It’s recent that zebra mussels were discovered, and each person with moss balls still has a big role in preventing the spread of zebra mussels. Our message to aquarium owners remains the same: dispose of your moss balls and aquarium water. Do not dump aquariums in any live water or pour water down drains or toilets,” Brian Nesvik, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said. “And please, do not buy more moss balls.”

All agencies have been tasked with evaluating the extent of where zebra mussels could be in Wyoming.

“A key part of our initial process is understanding the scale of where zebra mussels could be in Wyoming and preventing more from coming in,” Doug Miyamoto, director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture said. “Stopping these products from coming into our state was a critical task. Now we are continuing our efforts to identify all of the places these mussels could be to fully understand the scale of the issue.”

Over the last two weeks, notable progress from the Invasive Mussel Response Team membership includes; 

Working with moss ball retailers to remove products from shelves

    Launching an extensive public communications campaign on how to dispose of moss balls and aquarium water

    Coordinating with more than three dozen states on a national response

    Participating in federal and state investigations

    Banning the import of moss ball products to Wyoming

    Briefing the 66th Legislature on discovery and potential impacts 

    Sending 600 letters to nursery stock dealers about moss balls and the state’s quarantine order

    Inventorying wastewater treatment plants and developing monitoring and decontamination protocols

    Adding targeted waters to the regular aquatic invasive species live water monitoring schedule

The team’s next actions are to evaluate the potential impacts of a zebra mussel infestation to natural resources, infrastructure and Wyoming’s economy, especially industries like agriculture and tourism. The Invasive Mussel Response Team is also evaluating costs for the next year of prevention and monitoring, as well as necessary mitigation mechanisms to the state.

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