South Dakota parks continue to step up zebra mussels containment efforts

(Photo by Brian Peterson)

YANKTON, S.D. — Conservation officials in a southeast South Dakota park are ramping up containment of invasive zebra mussels for the upcoming season.

Tourists nationwide visit Yankton’s Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, which has become infested with the damage-causing mussels.

Conservation officer Dan Altman told the Yankton Press & Dakotan that they’re trying to manage the mussels and prevent them from spreading elsewhere. He said one gallon of water from Lewis and Clark Lake could infest Lake Oahe in Pierre with zebra mussels so long-term plans include containing Yankton’s waters.

Officers have increased enforcement of aquatic invasive species (AIS) violations, particularly through outreach to visitors or those unaware of the problem.

“We’ve got a team in Pierre that focuses solely on social media, website hits and mobile app users,” said Altman. “They’ve made a lot of improvement to the Game, Fish and Parks mobile app, and right now they’re trying to find ways to specifically target app users in Yankton through cell phone location. So, if you’re going to come to Yankton for a weekend and camp, and you login for a camping reservation online, you’re going to be forced to look at pictures to educate you on zebra mussels.”

They’ve also stationed department interns at three main points where boaters push off to track boats trying to decontaminate, collect data and educate people.

“At this point we’re still considering them a growing population. We don’t think they’ve capped out at this point and time,” Altman said. “Based on how many we’re seeing summer to summer, there’s just an exponential growth that you can see with the naked eye, without even counting them.”