Watercraft inspectors in Montana have intercepted a record number of boats carrying invasive mussels this season.
Since mid-March, inspectors have stopped 20 mussel infested boats at check stations in Anaconda, Dillon, Flowing Wells, Hardin, Nashua and most recently Wibaux.
Tom Woolf, the Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau Chief with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told YPR just 16 mussel-carrying boats were found during the entire 2019 season.
FWP officials said part of the increase is due to above average, early season boat traffic. More than twice as many boats were inspected in March this year compared to last. FWP said the spike was due to snowbirds returning home in response to news of the novel coronavirus.
All five of the mussel-infested boats intercepted in March and April had come from Arizona. Over the last two months, most of the vessels found with aquatic invasive species have been from the Midwest.
FWP officials say out of state boat traffic remains higher than normal and check stations are seeing a record number of watercraft. Since July 5, nearly 47,000 vessels have been inspected.
The agency has tested several hundred lake samples for quagga and zebra mussel larvae. So far none of the samples have come back positive, including those from the Tiber Reservoir.
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.
The agency announced July 7 that faucet snails, which can be found in the Flathead Basin and several other locations, were detected in the Smith and Lost Coon lakes for the first time.
FWP is also asking the public to report sightings of snapping turtles in west-central Montana. Snapping turtles are not native in the water bodies west of the Continental Divide and can cause significant harm to populations of frogs, snakes, ducks, fish and other turtles.
In 2018, FWP received a report of a snapping turtle in a backwater at Milltown State Park east of Missoula.