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Invasive zebra mussels on the move

ALEXANDRIA - The temperatures are cooler and the days are getting shorter, which means fall is here and winter is just around the corner.

It's that time of year when lakeshore property owners are taking in docks and lifts and winterizing their boats and other summer toys.

But this year, property owners might find more than they bargained for when pulling in their equipment - zebra mussels, lots of zebra mussels.

Last Thursday and Friday, Nathan Olson, an invasive species specialist with the Department of Natural Resources out of Fergus Falls, was checking on the status of the zebra mussel situation in Alexandria area lakes. He spent his time on the chain of lakes looking at the progression of the invasive species.

"There is a significant number of newly-settled zebra mussels in Lakes L'Homme Dieu and Carlos," said Olson. "It was quite impressive and more than what I was expecting."

Buoys on those two lakes were fully encrusted with zebra mussels, observed Olson.

Olson noted that as homeowners are bringing in equipment this year, they should thoroughly look everything over, checking to make sure all equipment is working properly. He said to check the pulleys and other mechanical functions and to clean everything properly before storing it for next year.

The best way to clean equipment is to use a pressure washer with hot water that is at least 104 degrees, said Olson.

After an item is washed, he added that it should be left out to dry for at least five days before storing it, which gives plenty of time for the zebra mussels to die. Olson noted, however, to make sure it is five dry days, not wet, rainy days.

"Everything should be dried off before putting it away," he said.

After the five-day drying period, any zebra mussels that are found can be carefully swept off or removed and then thrown in the garbage.

In addition, he said if lakeshore property owners plan on transporting equipment or boats, they must be sure to remove any and all zebra mussels. A thorough inspection should be done, as transporting invasive species is against the law, he noted.

Olson also noted that people should be cognizant of the zebra mussel situation when buying or selling a boat or equipment such as a dock or lift.

All boats and pieces of equipment should be carefully inspected so that nothing is transported.

If people find zebra mussels in any of the lakes that are not already infested, they should contact Olson at (218) 739-7576, extension 259. He can also be reached at that number if people have any questions regarding zebra mussels.