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Zebra mussels found in Itasca County lakes

By John Myers

Forum News Service

DULUTH -- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Thursday confirmed that zebra mussels have been found in Sand Lake in Itasca County.

DNR aquatic invasive species experts confirmed the finding of a citizen who discovered adult zebra mussels attached to a dock removed from Sand Lake last fall and inspected this spring before it was put back in the lake.

The DNR then checked connected waters and found more zebra mussels in Little Sand Lake.

Sand Lake and Little Sand Lake, in northern Itasca County, are part of the Bowstring chain of lakes that eventually flow into the Bigfork River, which flows into the Rainy River and on into Lake of the Woods.

Additional searches of connected waters including Birds Eye, Portage and Rice lakes are underway to determine the scope of the infestation.

The dock the zebra mussels were found on was stored onshore over the winter and was found to have dead zebra mussels still attached this spring.

“The homeowner took personal responsibility to inspect their equipment before placing it in the water and did the right thing by reporting the discovery right away,” said Rich Rezanka, DNR aquatic invasive species specialist.

Zebra mussels continue to spread across Minnesota, including last year’s discovery of zebra mussel larvae in Lake Winnibigoshish. They have been found in Lake Ore Be Gone in Gilbert and in Pike Lake near Duluth, as well as Lake Mille Lacs and several southern Minnesota lakes after first infesting the Mississippi River system.

They first were discovered in Minnesota in the Twin Ports harbor more than two decades ago after moving into the Great Lakes in the ballast of oceangoing ships from Europe and Russia, where the mussels are native.

Because the Sand Lakes now have been designated as infested by the DNR, bait harvest and transport of water for any purpose is prohibited.

Anglers, boaters and other recreationists are reminded to remove all aquatic plants, zebra mussels and other prohibited invasive species, drain water from all water equipment including portable bait containers, and drain bilges and livewells by removing the drain plug before leaving the boat landing.

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