An invasive species known as “Zebra Mussels” have been spotted at Raystown Lake.
They’ve been deemed one of the worst aquatic invasive species in the country, according to the PA Fish and Boat Commission.
Alicia Palmer is a Natural Resource Specialist at Raystown Lake who said it was “almost a matter of time” before they got here.
“We found 3 mussels. So, we are going to continually monitor that,”
The small freshwater mussel can damage infrastructure around the lake, attaching to boats, docks, and anything in its path.
They can also harm aquatic life.
“Zebra Mussels are detrimental in that they’re filter feeders, so they will pretty much take out all food sources for every other living thing,” Palmer said.
They look like small, “D-shaped,” thumbnail-sized bivalves with a Zebra-stripe pattern.
They’re sharp feeling like sandpaper along a boat and multiply very quickly.
“It can produce a million babies at a time,” Palmer said.
The total cost to the U.S. from the Zebra Mussel invasion is estimated at $3.1 billion over the next ten years, according to the Department of State.
More families have turned to outdoor activities during the pandemic for social distancing.
Palmer said last year, Raystown Lake had 1.6 million visitors, attracting boaters and anglers from across Pennsylvania and beyond.
“Transportation is how these invasive are spreading. They’re getting on the hulls of boats from a lake in the Pittsburgh area, and that person is bringing them to Raystown Lake,” she explained.
Now, the focus is on prevention and education, with their “Clean, Drain, Dry” initiative.
“We want folks to clean their boat with warm, soapy water. We want them to drain their boat. We also want them to dry their boat, and not put their boat in another body of water for five days, because that’s how long the Zebra Mussels can last out of water,” Palmer said.
“Zebra Mussels” can live anywhere from two to five years, overstaying their welcome.
So, Raystown officials are doing what they can to stop the spread elsewhere.
“The end goal, even if they are already established here, is that we do not want them spreading to other lakes and rivers,” Palmer said.
If you find a “Zebra Mussel,” report it to the PA Fish and Boat Commission.