Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced Mar. 30 that inspectors in Dillon intercepted three boats infested with invasive mussels since Mar. 16. FWP says news about the novel coronavirus caused a big spike in boat traffic as people returned home.
Boat inspectors in Dillon found two pontoons and a motor boat with visible, dead mussels on their propellers and hulls on the 16, 21 and 24 of March. Last year, the Dillon station stopped three mussel-infested boats in the entire season.
Liz Lodman, FWP’s Aquatic Invasive Species Information Officer, says the boats belonged to several snowbirds returning home with one Montanan and two Canadians. She says they did not plan on recreating in Montana.
Lodman says two of the boats had been at Lake Havasu in Arizona, a hotbed for zebra and quagga mussels that can cause costly damage to irrigation systems, hydropower dams and drinking water systems . She didn’t have data on the third boat.
FWP said in the press release that the amount of boat traffic during the first two weeks the Dillon boat inspection station was open was like what they normally see in the summertime, not March.
Three quarters of the boats passing through were registered in Canada. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau closed the U.S. and Canada border to non essential travel a week and a half ago.
FWP said boat traffic returned to normal over the same weekend Gov. Steve Bullock’s stay at home order went into effect.
To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 illness, FWP inspectors are required to maintain a 6-foot distance from the public and regularly clean and disinfect equipment and tools. Each inspector is assigned a specific task so that equipment isn’t shared.
People bringing boats into Montana are required to get inspected before launching and must stop at all open watercraft inspection stations they encounter.
To Find a watercraft inspection station and to learn more, go to CleanDrainDryMT.com or call the FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau at 406-444-2440.