The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed zebra mussels in their larval stage in two locations in Leech Lake in Cass County. The DNR has found no adult zebra mussels in the lake, but the locations and numbers of zebra mussel larvae, called veligers, indicate a reproducing population may be present.
The DNR confirmed more than 30 veligers from a sample collected in deep water off the shore of Portage Bay, on the northeast side of the 110,000-acre lake, and more than 40 veligers from a sample collected in the center of Kabekona Bay, on Leech Lake’s western edge. No veligers were present in samples collected from three other sites between Portage and Kabekona bays. The two sites where veligers were confirmed are nearly 17 miles apart.
The DNR Fisheries section collected the samples as part of their Lake Survey Program, which proactively gathers and analyzes samples from the 11 largest lakes in Minnesota every year. Leech Lake is the third-largest lake in the state.
Portage Bay is within the Leech Lake Reservation; Kabekona Bay is not. The DNR will work with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the Leech Lake Association, property owners and local governments to conduct a broader search and discuss options.
Zebra mussels are an invasive (non-native) species that can compete with native species for food and habitat, cut the feet of swimmers, reduce the performance of boat motors, and cause expensive damage to water intake pipes. Less than two percent of Minnesota’s 11,842 lakes are listed as infested with zebra mussels.
More information is available at www.mndnr.gov/AIS.