LAKE TAHOE — A new aquatic invader has reared its spiraled head at a Lake Tahoe Basin inspection station — the New Zealand mudsnail.The mudsnail — a non-native aquatic invasive species — was discovered on a boat at an off-ramp inspection station in Meyers on May 25.It has also been detected in the Owens River Valley, the Cosumnes River Valley and other wetland locations throughout the California Central Valley.“The primary reason we are concerned is because of the mudsnails' ability to outcompete the native benthic invertebrate population,” said Ted Thayer, manager of the Aquatic Invasive Species Program at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “New Zealand mudsnails are not digestible by the native fish, so when they outcompete the native invertebrates, the fish have nothing to eat.”Thayer said that unlike the more widely known zebra and quagga mussels, mudsnails do not affect water infrastructure or cling to boat engines, but their ecological impact to fish habitats is significantly detrimental.“As the mudsnail is not a preferred food for trout and other fish species they may cause a crash in the fishery which would have recreational and economic effects,” Thayer said.The mudsnails, which prefer streams, rivers and creeks are typically transferred from water body to water body via non-motorized boats like canoes, kayaks and other assorted paddle operated watercraft.The AIS program is currently devising a non-motorized watercraft inspection strategy. Motorized watercraft is easier to monitor, because engine-powered boats require a launch facility to enter the lake. Paddle-powered boats can enter the lake from any point.Thayer said inspectors will increase vigilance around the lake.“(The TRPA is) stepping up inspections at off-ramp stations, and the Forest Service is setting up screenings in South Lake,” Thayer said.
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