Getting All Their Ducks In A Row In AIS Battle

MINNEAPOLIS — On the shores of Minneapolis’ Lake Calhoun, it can get lost in a blur of kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats, fishing boats and the usual summer-day fun.

And in rural Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin here shortly, it’s decoys, dogs, waders and push poles.

When you think of the spread of aquatic invasive species, you don’t necessarily think of the aforementioned, at least not that latter list. Small, mostly non-motorized watercraft on Calhoun? Possibly. But AIS can get lost in the shuffle here — the lake itself can fade into the background as users of the popular Grand Rounds Scenic Byway trail that circles the lake dominate the landscape.

But there is indeed a recreational watercraft presence here. And so, mostly hidden behind all the action, there’s an AIS inspector, too.

An inspector hired by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board was overseeing the quiet boat access on a busy trail day last week. Although she said that pretty much every invasive species that has infested area lakes has found its way into Calhoun, she noted that the main AIS enemy in the Northland — zebra mussels — has yet to show up in the metro’s popular fishing and recreational lake. So her job — and the hope of the MPRB — is to continue to keep zebra mussels at bay through these inspections, in line with, yet separate, from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ extensive AIS efforts. (Similar work is ongoing at nearby Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis, too.)

And while boats are the main culprit when it comes to the spread of AIS and zebra mussels, natural resources agencies such as the Wisconsin DNR are doing everything they can to keep, say, waterfowl hunters aware and in the loop on the AIS front, too.

“We want to get the word out about aquatic invasive species to make sure that hunters’ investment of time and energy continues to pay off for waterfowl and is not diminished by the spread of damaging aquatic invaders,” Bob Wakeman, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Wisconsin DNR, said in a release asking for waterfowl hunters’ help in the continued AIS battle.

Also according to the release, in addition to the standard boating gear, waterfowl hunters should monitor decoys, waders, push poles that may contain water, debris and mud where invasive species such as zebra mussels and faucet snails can hide, and even their dogs.

Use of nonnative vegetation such as phragmites to help conceal blinds or boats also can lead to the inadvertent spread of species that clog waterways and crowd out more beneficial plants needed to provide food and shelter for ducks and geese, the agency added.

Other types of aquatic invasive species may serve as hosts for parasites or bacteria that can kill waterfowl, and Wakeman said the Wisconsin DNR urges hunters to clean equipment and boats and check dogs’ coats before leaving a hunting location.

According to the release, to help share the message and provide tips for cleanup this waterfowl hunting season, Wisconsin DNR staff and partners will visit with hunters at key locations. On September 24, opening day for the North Zone, teams will be in the Green Bay and Mead Wildlife areas. On October 1, opening day for the South and Mississippi Zones, teams will be at access points in Horicon Marsh, southeast Wisconsin and along the Mississippi River.

According to the Wisconsin DNR, to help protect waterfowl habitat and populations, hunters should do the following before launching into and leaving a body of water:

  • Inspect waders, boats, trailers, motors and hunting equipment, including boots, blinds and dogs.
  • Remove all plants, animals and mud.
  • Drain all water from decoys, boats, motors, livewells and other equipment.

Hunters also are encouraged to report what they think might be new invasive species as early detection is crucial to reducing or eliminating the harm from damaging species, the Wisconsin DNR said.

If only we thought that way before the zebra mussels epidemic, maybe most every lake in the Northland — minus Calhoun, it seems — would be doing what they’re doing at Calhoun: Concentrating on keeping them out instead of trying to manage the infestation.

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