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Lake homeowners urged to check for zebra mussels

Lakefront homeowners are being urged to check for zebra mussels when they pull in their piers and store their boats for the winter.

Zebra mussels are an invasive species that spread rapidly and can do great damage: They eat micro-organisms that kill algae and provide food for fish, cut the feet of swimmers and beachcombers with their sharp shells, and damage boat motors.

Kaycie Stushek, an invasive species specialist with the Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development Council, says homeowners should look for clusters of shells under their piers.

"People are taking out their piers and their docks this time of year, so this is a chance for you to see if you have zebra mussels so that you can report them," says Stushek. "They latch onto things, and they latch on very tight, and they don't normally let go."

Stushek says with zebra mussels - which she describes as usually no bigger than "the end of your thumb" - bad things come in small packages.

"One zebra mussel can have a million babies," she says. "But they're so small, they're microscopic, so you could have a glass of water that you scoop out of a lake and you could have tons and tons and tons of babies in there, and transport them and not even know."

Stushek says once the mussels get into a lake, it's impossible to get them out. "It's really important to prevent the spread, because once they get in a system, we cannot currently get them out."

Kaycie Stushek says to stop their spread, it's important to identify the lakes where the mussels exist; lakefront homeowners can do that when they pull their piers in for the winter."