Wyoming Game and Fish Intercepting More Boats Carrying Aquatic Invasive Species
Written by Andrew-Rossi on July 6, 2022
A higher number of boats harboring invasive aquatic animals and plants are being intercepted, so boaters must stay vigilant and responsible and get their boats inspected and disinfected.
Close to four months into the 2022 boating season, Wyoming Game and Fish Department has stopped ten boats with mussels attached, one with a live brook stickleback mixed with live-caught bait and one with curly pondweed. The increased numbers indicate that A.I.S. continues to threaten Wyoming waters, and boaters play a significant role in keeping them out.
“The numbers we’re seeing are concerning — especially this early in the season,” said Josh Leonard, Game and Fish A.I.S. coordinator. “We’re seeing incoming boats with A.I.S. as well as local boaters potentially moving A.I.S. between waters.”
Wyoming is one of the only states that has avoided an infestation of invasive mussels. However, Wyoming has documented curly pondweed, brook stickleback, Asian clams, New Zealand mud snails, and rusty crayfish.
The defense against the destructive species starts with boaters stopping at watercraft inspection stations. There are 14 permanent Game and Fish-operated inspection locations at key places like state lines, ports of entry, and high-use boat ramps — in addition to several certified private inspectors.
Game and Fish has inspected over 17,000 watercraft this season, on pace with the previous two years.
Last summer, a boat harboring zebra mussels was intercepted at Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park. Had that boat launched into Yellowstone Lake, the mussels might have spread and devastated the local aquatic ecosystem.
“Inspection stations are certainly busy — which is good. That means a lot of boaters are recognizing inspections are key to keeping zebra and quagga mussels and other threats from spreading,” Leonard said. “The inspections take minimal time, but they can get busy — especially around a holiday weekend. If there is nothing of concern found — like mussels, snails, plants, or standing water, you can be on your way quickly.”
If A.I.S. is found on watercraft, Game and Fish will decontaminate the boat and teach people how to spot these threats to make the next inspection seamless. That process is called Clean, Drain, Dry.
It’s state law that all boaters must stop when coming upon an A.I.S. inspection station — even if they stopped at one prior.
Any watercraft transported into Wyoming from March 1-Nov. 30 must undergo a mandatory inspection by an authorized inspector before launching on any Wyoming waterway. If boaters entering Wyoming do not encounter an open A.I.S. check station on their travel route, the boater must seek an inspection.
Further, suppose the watercraft was used on a water suspect or positive for invasive mussels in the last 30 days. In that case, it must be inspected before launching year-round and may require decontamination. Full rules are available online.
“Game and Fish is dedicated to keeping invasive species at bay. Boaters who stop at check stations and know and follow the regulations are a key partner in these efforts,” Leonard said.
Inspectors are finding more than A.I.S. aboard. Leonard noted inspectors are intercepting illegally-possessed live baitfish, which are not allowed to be brought into Wyoming by an angler or possessed west of the Continental Divide.