By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Monday, some hearty people took the day to launch their boats for the season. But before they got in the water, their boats had to be inspected for invasive species.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is now in full force looking for fingernail-sized animals: zebra mussels.

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“When we check boats that are coming into the lake, we just look them over,” said Ashley Hawkins, a DNR watercraft inspector. “If [the boaters] don’t really know anything, if they haven’t talked to another watercraft inspector, we try to educate them as much as we can…and when they’re coming off the lake, we pretty much do the same thing.”

Zebra mussels have been a growing problem in Minnesota lakes and rivers in recent years, as they eat up fish food, cut fishing lines and damage shorelines.

“We’re pretty strict. We just want to look for anything. If we see anything we do a decon on the boat,” Hawkins said.

That decon — decontamination — cleaning process is mandatory this year for boats that have been on the water for longer than 24 hours.

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The DNR is also trying out zebra mussel sniffing dogs at some inspection areas.

The DNR recommends that boaters always check their boats for zebra mussels after taking them off the lake. They also say that boaters should always drain theirs boats, check the drainage hole, and check the underside of the back of their boats, as that’s the most common place they hide. 

“We want to keep them from spreading to other lakes,” Hawkins said. “We’re just trying to slow down the spread as much as possible.”

The DNR wants boaters to know that they should keep an eye out for all the types of invasive species. For more on invasive species, head over to the DNR’s website.

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Kate Raddatz