Now that hunting season is under way, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) warns waterfowl hunters it’s against the law to transport aquatic invasive species (AIS).
DNR conservation officers routinely inspect equipment during the hunting season and enforce state regulations related to invasive species.
Many people only associate the threat of spreading AIS with summertime activities, but hunters are also at risk of moving aquatic invaders from one waterbody to another. Without proper precautions, invasive plants and animals such as purple loosestrife, faucet snails, Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels could be transported on duck boats, blind material and hunting gear.
“Hunters are legally required to drain all water and remove visible plants from boats and equipment before leaving the water access,” said Allison Gamble, DNR AIS specialist. “Waterfowl hunters should also remove all mud and check everything that could harbor aquatic invaders – even hunting dogs – to avoid carrying unwanted hitchhikers.”
Hunters are required by law to:
• Remove faucet snails and other prohibited invasive species from boats, waders, push poles, decoys and decoy anchors before leaving the water access to avoid their spread.
• Cut cattails or other aquatic emergent plants above the waterline for blinds or camouflage. Thoroughly clean these materials before moving to another waterbody. When inspecting boats on infested waters, the DNR often finds zebra mussels attached to vegetation.
The DNR also recommends that waterfowl hunters switch to elliptical, bulb-shaped or strap decoy anchors that won’t snag submerged aquatic plants as easily.
Invasive species can damage habitat for waterfowl, fish and other wildlife, and even cause die-offs of waterfowl. It only takes a fragment of Eurasian watermilfoil to spread into a new waterbody.
At early life stages, some invasive species such as young zebra mussels are difficult to see. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another water body: spray with high-pressure water, rinse with very hot water or dry for at least five days.