Zebra mussel threat closes campground, lake at park


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Riding Mountain National Park is closing one of its lakes due to the threat of zebra mussels.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/12/2017 (1756 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Riding Mountain National Park is closing one of its lakes due to the threat of zebra mussels.

The Manitoba park announced Tuesday genetic traces of zebra mussels — but not the actual mussels themselves — have been found in Whirlpool Lake, about 15 kilometres northeast of Wasagaming townsite.

Both the lake and its campground will be closed as a precautionary measure for all of 2018, after which their status will be re-evaluated, officials said. Motorized boats were previously not allowed in the lake, but now canoes and kayaks will be banned as well.

Megan Dudeck Photo Whirlpool Lake is closed after genetic traces of zebra mussels were found.

Whirlpool Lake is located along Highway 19 and east of Highway 10, which runs north-south through the park, located some 250 km northwest of Winnipeg.

It is one of about 15 lakes its size or larger in Riding Mountain. Whirlpool is about one-10th the size of Clear Lake.

Park researchers stressed they have not found live zebra mussels; what they have found is environmental DNA (eDNA) the organism leaves behind as it moves through water.

“We’re hoping that it doesn’t mean anything alive. It could be a piece of shell, or from a bird that ate a zebra mussel and excreted it, or maybe someone had a little shell on a canoe or kayak,” said Paul Tarleton, acting field unit superintendent at the park. 

“It’s a new technique (used to find the eDNA), and we’re kind of lucky because you can catch a potential presence a lot more quickly.”

Multiple tests have been conducted and show no presence of zebra mussel veligers (larvae), officials said.

“We’re disappointed to find it in Whirlpool because there aren’t any motorized boats allowed, and we always think of motorboats and trailers as the biggest vector of transmission,” Tarleton said.

While Whirlpool does not run into Clear Lake and therefore could not contaminate it, it does flow into the Little Saskatchewan River system — and that is worrisome, he said.

Zebra mussels have yet to be found in any of the park’s other lakes. Zebra mussels were first confirmed in Manitoba in Lake Winnipeg in 2013, and there is a high threat they will spread to other lakes in the province. They have been found in a lake in Duck Mountain Provincial Park to the north, as well as Cedar Lake and the Red River. 

The closure of Whirlpool Lake follows international standards to prevent the spread of invasive species.

“Parks Canada takes this matter seriously and we are vigilant in our efforts to prevent the introduction of zebra mussels to waters in Riding Mountain National Park,” park officials said in a prepared statement. “Staff will continue to monitor the situation closely and take action if a positive result is found.”

Riding Mountain operates an aquatic invasive species prevention program that includes proactive monitoring, inspection and decontamination of watercraft. Lakes in Riding Mountain National Park are tested routinely for zebra mussel eDNA and veligers.

All motorized and non-motorized watercraft, including canoes and kayaks, entering any waters in the park must undergo a mandatory inspection for aquatic invasive species. Watercraft that pass the inspection receive a permit from Parks Canada.




Updated on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 3:08 PM CST: Removes photo

Updated on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 5:04 PM CST: updates

Updated on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 7:43 AM CST: Edited

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