Gilbert, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Zebra Mussels have spread farther north in Minnesota than ever before.
DNR officials say the invasive species have been found in the Gilbert Mine Pit Lake.
"They're good-sized Zebra Mussels," said DNR Invasive Species Specialist, Rich Rezanka, "[They don't] get to that size in a season."
Rezanka learned of the Zebra Mussels in Gilbert Pit, known to the locals as Lake Ore-Be-Gone, after a diver called the DNR, informing them that there were mussels in the lake.
The DNR verified the claim, finding an 'abundance' of mussels, all of which were at least one centimeter in size. Rezanka says that the size of the mussels indicate that they've been in the lake for several seasons.
Zebra Mussels alter a lake's ecosytem, causing damage to the lake and possibly harming swimmers, who could step on their sharp shells.
Rezanka says that now that the mussels are in the lake, they're there to stay.
"There's no magic wand to wave or pill to put in the water to fix this," Rezanka said.
The finding is frustrating to Rezanka and DNR conservation officers, who have spent many hours informing boaters of the things they need to do so species like zebra mussels don't spread.
"You have to watch out for [them], you have to check your stuff," said Conservation Officer, Matthew Frericks.
Frericks says that it's important that boaters clean their boat and check for invasive species after leaving any body of water. When leaving lakes affected by invasive species, boaters should let their boat dry for at least five days before putting into another body of water.
Before spreading to Gilbert Pit, the northernmost lake in Minnesota with Zebra Mussels was Pike Lake, which is about an hour south of Gilbert. The spread north has people at the DNR concerned that the species will spread even more.
"It just makes it that much closer to lakes like Burntside, lakes like Vermillion [and] all of our Boundary Waters," said Frericks.
It's also a worry to people who frequently use Gilbert Pit for recreation.
"We pack up and we're here all day," said Maria Poderzay, who says she tries to get to the lake with her kids two or three times a week.
"I wish people would take the time to clean their boats because it [the Zebra Mussel infestation] affects families," Poderzay said.
Gilbert Pit is the first mine pit lake in which Zebra Mussels have been found.
For more information on Minnesota's aquatic invasive species laws visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.