Since confirming zebra mussel larvae in Red Lake in Beltrami County earlier this year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Red Lake Band Department of Natural Resources have conducted additional plankton surveys in Upper and Lower Red Lake.
In 2019, 105 samples from 10 sites were collected by Red Lake tribal biologists and processed by the Minnesota DNR. Four samples contained zebra mussel larvae, called veligers (VEL-uh-jers)—two from Upper Red Lake and two from Lower Red Lake. Zebra mussel veliger numbers ranged from one to six per sample.
Repeated occurrences of multiple veligers strongly suggest that zebra mussel reproduction is occurring in the lake. There is no viable explanation for seeing multiple veligers in two different sites in both Lower and Upper Red Lake other than an established zebra mussel population.
No adult zebra mussels have been confirmed in Red Lake. They may be very difficult to find, given the large size of the lake. The Minnesota DNR has observed a similar situation in Leech Lake. Some veligers were found in water samples over several seasons, with adult zebra mussels only recently being reported by Minnesota DNR fisheries specialists.
The Minnesota DNR will be coordinating closely with the Red Lake Band to develop a comprehensive and aggressive response to these most recent findings. This work will also include a focus on preventing introductions of other aquatic invasive species.
Red Lake natural resources staff have conducted water sampling on Red Lake and several other lakes since 2012.