Moss ball take-back program garnered 87 returns

h/t North Dakota Game and Fish Department - A zebra mussel is seen on a moss ball.

(Cheyenne, WY) – Aquarium owners stepped up this spring to help protect Wyoming’s waters from invasive zebra mussels. The hobbyists returned 87 moss balls during the month-long Wyoming Game and Fish Department moss ball take-back program, in addition to following directions to properly dispose of thousands of moss balls throughout the state.

“Many people made the extra effort to turn in their moss balls or dispose of them, and we’re appreciative. It’s clear how much each Wyomingite values our natural resources by heeding our warnings about the potential impacts to our waterways and infrastructure,” said Josh Leonard, Game and Fish aquatic invasive species coordinator. “You made a difference for our state. Thank you.”

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In March, zebra mussels were found in Wyoming for the first time on moss balls, a popular aquarium plant sold primarily in pet stores. Zebra mussels are a highly-destructive aquatic invasive species (AIS) that Game and Fish has been working to keep out of Wyoming for over a decade.

Since the discovery, Game and Fish, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and several other state agencies have been working to mitigate the broad potential impacts to the state’s water resources and infrastructure. The moss ball take-back program was one of many outreach efforts to raise awareness about the threat of zebra mussels and reward efforts to dispose of the aquarium-tank product. Each time a person returned a moss ball they were entered into a raffle to win $1,300. The winner of the raffle was Deborah C. Scollard of Casper.

The moss ball take-back program was supported by donations from Wyoming Trout Unlimited, the WYldlife Fund, Wyoming Game Wardens Association, Wyoming County Commissioners Association, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Wyoming Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Muley Fanatic Foundation and the Wyoming Water Association.

While the take-back program has concluded, anyone can still drop off moss balls to any Game and Fish regional office or to dispose of it properly by following directions on the department’s website. The plant remains under a quarantine order from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture which bans further importation into the state.

This summer, Game and Fish is encouraging the public to watch for zebra mussels and be vigilant with efforts to keep AIS out of Wyoming. AIS check stations are open throughout Wyoming, and any boaters who come upon one must stop. Full requirements for watercraft users are available on the Game and Fish website. 

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