Samples from Missouri River, south of Townsend, suspect for mussel larva

Divers, dogs help in the search for adult mussels at Tiber, Canyon Ferry

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks continues the search for the presence of aquatic invasive mussels after recent test results found larvae in Tiber Reservoir and a suspect larva in Canyon Ferry.
On Tuesday, water sample results from the Missouri River south of Townsend, near the York’s Islands Fishing Access Site, also came in suspect for aquatic invasive mussel larva.
This is the third suspect water body found this year in Montana. The samples from Tiber Reservoir were later confirmed to be positive for aquatic invasive mussel larvae. The Canyon Ferry Reservoir sample is still suspect, pending the results of further testing, which is underway. The suspect samples from the Missouri River are also undergoing more testing.
“We are continuing to test water samples collected from the Missouri River basin, which is our area of focus now,” said Eileen Ryce, FWP fisheries division administrator.
A suspect sample is one where the mussel larva present appears to be an aquatic invasive mussel, but further verification and testing is needed to confirm the results are positive.
Test results last week from a water sample collected in the Milk River downstream of Nelson Reservoir came back inconclusive for aquatic invasive mussel larvae.
The test showed the presence of the shell of a larva, which indicates the larva had dried out at some point and died, said Ryce.
The results are inconclusive because “there’s no way of knowing if the dried larval shell came from the river itself or was brought in already dead by an outside source,” Ryce said.
In an ongoing effort to search for adult mussels, FWP, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the U.S Bureau of Reclamation, all partners on the Governor’s Invasive Species Advisory Council, last week used mussel-sniffing dogs at both Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoir to search for further indications of the aquatic invasive mussels.
At Tiber, the dogs searched the shoreline and docks that were removed from the water for the winter season. The dogs got a potential positive hit at one point on the shoreline and at one dock. However, no adults were found.
At Canyon Ferry, the dogs searched several docks still in the water and got a potential hit on a dock at the Silos and on a boat and a section of riprap at Yacht Basin Marina. These hits prompted FWP staff to snorkel around docks at both locations looking for adult mussels. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service divers trained in searching for adult mussels continued the search this week, Monday at Yacht Basin and Tuesday at the Silos. No adult mussels were found.
Response efforts for both Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs are being coordinated by an interagency response team that includes staff from FWP, DNRC, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Montana Invasive Species Advisory Council.
For many years FWP has conducted regular testing of the state’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs for aquatic invasive mussels. Water samples from Fresno, Holter, and Hauser reservoirs have come back negative, as have samples from Lake Frances and the Marias River. Testing at Fort Peck Reservoir and the entire Missouri River system is ongoing. Once sample processing is complete in these close proximity areas, it will continue with water bodies west of the Continental Divide.
FWP conducts AIS tests on 141 water bodies across the state each year. This includes more than 540 samples, which are processed at the agency laboratory in Helena.
“We’ve developed an extensive testing protocol in Montana because of the importance of early detection,” Ryce said. “The fact we’ve discovered these mussel larvae at very low densities in Tiber and Canyon Ferry indicates this testing protocol is proving effective.”
Additionally, through the spring and summer FWP operates 17 aquatic invasive species check stations around Montana. New this year was a law requiring recreationists with water craft to stop at any check station they encountered. More than 37,000 water craft came through FWP’s check stations. Of the more than 37,000 water craft inspected, seven were found positive for aquatic invasive mussels.
Central to Montana’s AIS monitoring and education efforts is its Clean, Drain and Dry message.
“We need all of our water users to understand and follow the Clean Drain Dry message and procedures,” Ryce said. “The success we have at preventing any spread or introduction of AIS in Montana depends on it.”
For the latest information on this issue, please look online at For facts about aquatic invasive mussels and other invasive species, please look at the MISAC website at


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