Invasive species targeting Alberta now

Farmers, campers, boaters and cottage owners around Pigeon Lake and other nearby water bodies should keep a sharp eye out...

Zebra mussels are a serious invasive species causing problems in parts of North America.

Farmers, campers, boaters and cottage owners around Pigeon Lake and other nearby water bodies should keep a sharp eye out for some unwanted and dangerous visitors to our province.

Invasive species, whether flora or fauna, can establish themselves rather quickly and quietly, unless eagle-eyed local residents are vigilant.

Kate Wilson, aquatic invasive species specialist with Fish and Wildlife policy, Environment and Parks, said luckily it doesn’t appear the major invasive species causing headaches right now have deeply established themselves in this area. But caution and vigilance is key.

She stated on of the biggest concerns is the flowering rush a beautiful invasive plant that is literally wreaking havoc in other parts of North America. Also of concern is purple loostrife and Himalayan balsam. These plants are found on the shoreline and not in the water. Not originally part of this ecosystem, if these species show up, the native plants surrounding lakes like Pigeon can’t compete with them and die out, leaving only the invader alive.

She also noted it’s possible the invasive plants were intentionally planted by people.

There are also concerns about invasive species in the water. Wilson said the government is trying to get the word out to people that it’s not appropriate to let domestic fish loose into the environment. Some of the culprits include goldfish, found in ponds that are connected to rivers, and the Prussian carp. This species adapt very well to North America and carry diseases and parasites. The Prussian carp can also crossbreed with other species, making them very difficult to control.

Wilson stated 10 urban municipalities have reported goldfish in their environment, and it’s tough to figure out exactly where they’re coming from.

She also noted the government is very concerned about zebra mussels, and nine boats in Alberta have already been found with the mussels stuck to them. The mussels are filter-feeders, squeezing nutrients from the water and returning only wastes which has a huge impact on the ecosystem. Wilson said the zebra mussels physically attach themselves, while native mussels do not. A monitoring system has been put into place this year at Gull, Sylvan, Buffalo, Pinehurst, Pigeon and Wizard Lakes to watch for zebra mussels.

Fish and Wildlife has a 24-hour reporting and info line anyone can call if they think they’ve found an invasive species or want more information: 1-855-336-BOAT

Wilson noted the government will continue its “Don’t Let It Loose” campaign to educate the public about what invasive species are and how they can be controlled.

Remember to clean your boat every time you use it, ensure the boat has been completely drained and while traveling the boat drain has to be open.