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Invasive Zebra Mussels Detected in Fort Supply Lake


Invasive zebra mussels have been detected for the first time in Fort Supply Lake in Woodward County, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The mussels were discovered by ODWC fisheries biologists during recent sampling efforts. The presence of zebra mussel veligers, or offspring, confirms that the lake is now host to the invasive aquatic species. 

zebra mussels in hand
Egainer/iNaturalist CC-BYNC

The zebra mussel normally grows to about the size of a thumbnail and is named for the striped pattern on its shell. The mussels are typically found attached to surfaces, objects or other mussels. Zebra mussels affect ecosystems they invade by threatening native mussels, fish and wildlife by consuming available food, and costing taxpayers millions of dollars by clogging water intakes and pipes, and damaging boat engines. 

Invasive zebra mussels spread to "clean" waters normally by hitching a ride on boats and other gear that people take from lake to lake. In only two or three years from first arriving, zebra mussels can significantly populate a waterbody. 

Fisheries Biologist Elaine Gainer, aquatic nuisance species coordinator for the wildlife department, said once these invasive mussels are present, there is no feasible way to eliminate them. The best strategy is to prevent them from spreading to other waterbodies, she said. 

ODWC’s Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) program has confirmed invasive zebra mussels in more than 25 waterbodies throughout Oklahoma, including Kaw, Sooner, Hefner, Keystone, Robert S. Kerr, Grand, Skiatook, Eufaula, Oologah, Claremore, Greenleaf, Tom Steed and Texoma lakes, as well as in the lower Canadian, Cimarron, Arkansas, Verdigris, Washita and North Canadian rivers. 

Preventative actions taken by boaters and other people using infested waters is vital to slow or stop the spread of invasive zebra mussels. Using the “Clean, Drain, Dry” procedure is highly encouraged. 

To fight aquatic nuisance species, please remember to drain bilge water, live wells, bait buckets and boat motors; inspect boats and trailers when leaving the water; scrape off any mussels or aquatic vegetation found when on dry land; then wash and dry off the boat, trailer and accessories. Also, boats allowed to dry for at least a week after contacting infested water are considered safe to take to a different waterbody. For more information on “Clean, Drain, Dry,” go to or

Gainer said invasive species of any kind — plant or animal — should never be returned to the water, and any sightings of them should be reported to ODWC by submitting a form online at or by calling 918-200-4815. She also encourages those who think they have encountered an invasive species to take photos to help experts with species identification. 

Zebra mussels are native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia and are believed to have arrived in the Great Lakes in 1986 via ballast water from a transoceanic vessel. They have quickly spread and are now found in more than 30 states. 

To learn more about various invasive species affecting Oklahoma, go to