DNR seeks freshwater mussel pics from paddlers, anglers
With high water levels receding on many streams and rivers, state conservation biologists are now encouraging paddlers, anglers and other water lovers to take a few minutes to help protect some of the most important yet least known members of Wis...
With high water levels receding on many streams and rivers, state conservation biologists are now encouraging paddlers, anglers and other water lovers to take a few minutes to help protect some of the most important yet least known members of Wisconsin's aquatic ecosystems: native freshwater mussels.
A new video shows volunteers how to search shorelines or shallow water for freshwater mussels native to Wisconsin and known by such colorful names as white heelsplitter, fatmucket, Wabash pigtoe and flutedshell. Volunteers are asked to photograph the mussels they collect and return live mussels to the water, then report that information to the Department of Natural Resources' Wisconsin Mussel Monitoring Program.
"We have 52 native mussel species in Wisconsin and 24 of them are endangered, threatened or special concern, meaning their populations are low or declining," said Jesse Weinzinger, a conservation biologist who coordinates the monitoring program.
Such information can help guide where DNR and partners work to protect and restore mussels. For example, staff work with transportation officials to help avoid or move mussel populations when road and bridge projects could potentially impact them.
Freshwater mussels, also known as clams, are important for healthy lakes, rivers and streams. They are not the invasive zebra mussels that potentially disrupt aquatic ecosystems and smother native mussels and are a major factor in declining native mussel populations, said Lisie Kitchel, who, like Weinzinger, works for DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program.
"Native mussels are our good mussels and they are important for healthy lakes and rivers," she says. Each native freshwater mussel can filter gallons of water a day, removing pollutants like mercury and other contaminants. They are food for raccoons, muskrats, otters, herons and other wildlife. They are even food for fish when the mussels are young.
Because native mussels filter environmental pollutants, Kitchel advises against eating them, but encourages people to submit reports about them.
Volunteers can report by setting up a free account on the reporting platform iNaturalist, which has a mobile app and a website, or by emailing photos and location information to the mussel monitoring program.
To find the training video, photos and descriptions of freshwater mussels and more, search online for "Wisconsin Mussel Monitoring Program."