In spring of 2021 New Zealand mudsnails were identified in The Elk River Chain of Lakes Watershed where Shanty Creek flows into the Grass River. Emily Burke, Conservation and Education Specialist at Grass River Natural Area made this startling discovery and has continued to monitor and develop an invasive species management plan.
New Zealand mudsnails are an aquatic invasive species that have negative ecological impacts on rivers, streams, and lakes. These tiny snails are about the size of a grain of rice and have a brown color making them extremely hard to differentiate from a spec of dirt. Coupled with the fact that they reproduce asexually, meaning just one snail can start a clone population, these tiny invasives can cause big problems for the ecosystem of our waterways. Preventing their spread is of the utmost importance to keep our waterways healthy.
Bringing awareness in the paddling, boating and fishing communities is extremely important in helping to prevent their spread. Recently, Grass River Natural Area, Paddle Antrim and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources partnered together to create and install signs at several access sites near where the mudsnails were identified on the Chain of Lakes Water Trail. These signs warn of the negative impact of these invasive and how to help prevent their spread by practicing clean, drain, and dry decontamination steps when switching waterways. To clean your boat and gear you should remove aquatic plants, mud, and other debris, disinfect by spraying with formula 409 Multi-Surface Cleaner or a 0.05% diluted bleach solution, wait 20 minutes and rise with tap water. Drain water from equipment and boats. Dry your gear for at least 5 days before going to a new body of water.
If you are interested in learning more about how to identify, report, and help prevent the spread of New Zealand mudsnails and other aquatic invasive species, consider joining a MI Paddle Steward Training put on by CAKE CISMA, Paddle Antrim, and local conservation professionals. There are four trainings being held throughout the summer each on a different body of water with a different conservation host(s). Kalkaska Conservation District will host their training on Log Lake, Grass River Natural Area on Grass River, Little Traverse Conservancy and Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council on St. Claire Lake and Walloon Lake Association and Conservancy will host their training on Walloon Lake. Dates and times for each training are listed below.