MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Zebra mussels are quickly becoming a water hazard you need to look out for in several state lakes.

Swimmers and skiers are reporting getting seriously hurt by them. Sometimes stitches are needed because the gash mussels cause is so deep.

“It hurt. Yeah, it hurt,” said Sarah Elbert about her experience getting cut a week ago.

She was swimming with her daughter and the rest of their family at Lake Minnetonka in Greenwood. She got out of the water to find her toe cut and bleeding.

“It did feel like tiny little razorblades,” she said.

Her father went down with a snorkel mask to investigate why she got cut. He pulled up a good-sized rock encrusted with zebra mussels and a board encrusted with them, too. They were sitting in five feet of water.

Those mussels, he said, were more than a half-inch long and as sharp as razorblades.

“We had no idea the zebra mussels were that bad in that part of the lake,” Sarah said.

In fact, zebra mussels glue themselves on anything solid in the water and cluster together.

“This sharp edge here is what causes the problems,” said Gary Montz.

Montz works for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and studies them.

“There are edges here, poking out all over,” he said.

Zebra mussels are generally found from the shoreline to 20 to 25 feet in the water.

“It’s a recreational impact that you need to be aware of,” he said. “You never know where you’ll encounter one of those things, so it’s just best for your enjoyment of the water if your feet are protected from those things.”

Tennis shoes, and any other kind of shoe with a good sole, will work to keep your feet from getting cut.

Sarah’s cannon-balling days into Minnetonka will continue, but only while wearing shoes in the water. She considers them important protection for her feet.

“Got to be careful. Yes,” she said.

Montz recommends checking the DNR’s map of lakes with zebra mussels before you jump in the water.

The mussels don’t like sand, because there’s nothing they can attach to, so he said that you should be fine swimming on a sandy shoreline.


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