More Montanans are aware of the threat of invasive species this year compared to last year. That’s according to a new study by the University of Montana.
Eighty-seven percent of Montanans who recreate on the water said they knew about invasive zebra and quagga mussels. That’s a 20 percent overall increase compared to last year, says Norma Nickerson, who headed the study by UM’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research.
"Always in something like this you’d like 100 percent awareness, 100 percent checking their boats at the mandatory check stations. So, understanding the awareness is really important. You can’t just be saying, ‘OK, everybody knows,’ or ‘most people know so we’re good.’ It only takes one boat to transfer that species into our waterways."
Nickerson’s team polled about 5,500 Montanans at gas stations earlier this year. The study follows up on a nearly identical survey completed last year.
Nearly every age group showed increased awareness about the mussels. Like last year, younger adults lag behind, with only 64 percent of water users claiming awareness.
While the vast majority of boaters knew about inspection stations, about a quarter of boaters didn’t know that non-motorized watercraft, like kayaks and stand up paddleboards, are also required to stop.
Invasive mussels first showed up in two Montana reservoirs in 2016. They can have devastating impacts to economies, recreation opportunities and ecosystems.
Learn more about what happens if Montana fails to stop the coming invasion of zebra and quagga mussels, with MTPR's SubSurface podcast.