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Zebra Mussels Found on Boat Destined for Deep Creek Lake

Department’s Launch Steward Program Successfully Interdicts Aquatic Invasive Species

For the second consecutive year, Deep Creek Lake State Park launch stewards successfully interdicted zebra mussels – an aquatic invasive species of shellfish – before they entered Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County.

On the evening of July 9, a launch steward was conducting a standard and voluntary inspection of an inboard ski boat when he came across what appeared to be a zebra mussel in a fragment of milfoil found in the boat’s intake system. Following the find, the steward informed the owners of the apparent presence of the invasive species and informed them to thoroughly clean their boat before it entered the lake, which the owners did.

The samples were later analyzed and examined by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which confirmed the presence of zebra mussels.

“Aquatic invasive species are an ever-present threat to Maryland’s vast network of waterways, be it our bays, lakes, streams or rivers,” Resource Assessment Service Director Bruce Michael said. “These invasive hitchhikers can impair economically-important and environmentally-sensitive ecosystems, such as Deep Creek Lake. The Launch Steward program worked well but it is ultimately everyone’s responsibility to care for the environment by thoroughly cleaning and drying boats, gear and trailers before they enter the water.”

The contaminated boat in this case was last used during the Fourth of July holiday on Otisco Lake, one of the Finger Lakes near Syracuse, New York. The U.S. Geological Survey has confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in the lake.

Zebra mussels are small, filter-feeding bivalves native to the Black and Caspian seas that were introduced into the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s. Since then the freshwater species has spread throughout much of the United States, including Maryland. The spread of zebra mussels has caused profound economic and environmental damage as they colonize hard surfaces in high densities affecting industrial equipment, altering ecosystems and habitat.

The Deep Creek Lake Launch Steward program, established in 2014, is funded by the Maryland Park Service and is done in partnership with the Garrett College Natural Resources and Wildlife Technology program. It aims to increase public awareness of aquatic invasive species and acts to prevent the introduction of invasive species through voluntary inspections of boats and trailers.