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A zebra mussel. Forum News Service file photo

For the first time, a North Dakota lake is found with zebra mussels

VALLEY CITY, N.D. — Zebra mussels have been confirmed in Lake Ashtabula near here, according to a press release from the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish.

Lake Ashtabula is the first North Dakota lake in which the invasive species have been discovered. Adult zebra mussels were discovered in the Red River in 2015.

Zebra mussels, native to the Black and Caspian seas of western Asia and eastern Europe, multiply rapidly and quickly change the makeup of lakes because they filter water. The fingernail-sized mussels can cause damage to native fish, plant and mussel species. Their sharp edges can cut the feet and hands of swimmers, cause problems for boat motors and damage infrastructure.

Game and Fish said an angler discovered a suspected zebra mussel last week and turned it in to department aquatic nuisance species coordinator Jessica Howell, who confirmed it as an adult zebra mussel.

Subsequent inspections of Lake Ashtabula, a 5,200-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-operated impoundment on the Sheyenne River, also found well-established populations of zebra mussels of various ages throughout the lake.

“This situation shows how important it is for boaters, anglers, swimmers and skiers to be aware of aquatic nuisance species and to take precautions to prevent their spread,” Howell said in a press release. “Everyone who uses this lake now plays a key role in stemming the spread of these mussels to uninfested waters.”

Game and Fish has classified Lake Ashtabula, and the Sheyenne River downstream all the way to the Red River, as Class I ANS infested water. Emergency rules will go into effect immediately to prohibit the movement of water away from the lake and river, including water for transferring bait. Notices will be posted at lake access sites and popular shore-fishing spots along the river, according to the release.

About 180 lakes and wetlands in Minnesota have been confirmed with zebra mussels, according to that state's Department of Natural Resources.