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Zebra Mussels' Takeover of Texas Quickly Becoming Inexorable

A zebra mussel-encrusted current meter pulled from Lake Michigan.
A zebra mussel-encrusted current meter pulled from Lake Michigan.
NOAA

The war for Texas' lakes continues apace, though it doesn't look like wildlife officials are holding the line. Despite the state's best efforts to get us to just dump the damned water out of our boats, zebra mussels may have established beachheads in two more North Texas lakes.

DNA from the hardy Eurasian mollusk, terror of aquatic ecosystems and water infrastructure, has been identified in Joe Pool Lake and Lake Worth. So far, no adult zebra mussels or their larvae, called veligers, have been found. They were discovered last week, however, in Lake Belton, south of Waco, by an alert Texas Mussel Watch volunteer who spotted one clinging to the shell of a giant floater mussel. Texas Parks and Wildlife discovered they were already well-established in Lake Belton.

"This is very discouraging news for a several reasons," said inland fisheries director Brian Van Zee. "Not only does this mark the first time that zebra mussels have been documented in the Brazos River basin, this new infestation is nearly 200 miles south of where zebra mussels are currently found in Texas. Unfortunately, this means that lakes in the central portion of the state are at even greater risk."

In response, TPWD's executive director signed an emergency order Wednesday adding Lake Belton and nearby Stillhouse Hollow to a host of infected North Texas lakes covered by special regulations enacted to slow the mussel's spread. The agency on November 7 will consider a proposal to include a 17-county swath of North Texas in the emergency rules pertaining to the draining of bilges and live wells, and the use of bait.

Lakes Lewisville, Ray Roberts, Texoma, Bridgeport and Eagle Mountain are already among those with healthy populations of zebra mussels. The exotic mollusk arrived in North America in the '80s, and quickly colonized the Great Lakes and the Mississippi, Tennessee, Hudson and Ohio river basins.

Now, they want our lakes. Learn here how to stop them.


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