AIS/Invasive Mussels

What are AIS or Invasive Mussels?

Zebra mussels are an aquatic invasive species (AIS) that has spread rapidly across the US since the 1980s.

  • Known for their detrimental effects on native fish and plant populations, as well as the significant economic costs associated with their rapid reproduction, waste products, and the changes they cause in lakes and streams
  • Spread to new lakes by hitchhiking on boats, trailers, and water gear that has been used in an infected lake
  • First detected in Montana in 2016
  • Have NOT YET been detected in Flathead Lake, but more effort and education is needed to keep it this way

Why Should I Be Concerned?

Zebra mussels cause significant economic and environmental damage to water bodies as soon as they become established. 

  • They significantly alter the local foodweb and choke out native fish and plant populations. 
  • They pollute water use infrastructure by damaging irrigation and water intake pipes.
  • Their shells and waste products pollute shorelines and lake bottoms, affecting recreational boating and beach use.
  • Their presence could negatively impact property values and decrease revenue generated by tourism.
Read more about the effects of Flathead Lake and outdoor recreation on the economy of the Flathead valley.

Closeup of zebra mussels

How Is FLBS Involved?

FLBS research focuses on early detection of AIS and mussels. Early detection may offer the only way to eradicate mussels in a water body. 

Read more about FLBS research efforts in UM Vision magazine.  

Where Can I Learn More?

Preventing the spread of invasive mussels in Montana involves work by many agencies. For more information, visit: 

Montana Mussel Alert website

Sampling from the Jessie B with Whitefish Range in the background