Boating season is getting into full swing and Texas wildlife officials are asking boaters for help in stopping a small mollusk from spreading to new waterways.
"You've got to actually grab them pretty hard to pull them off," says Brian Van Zee, the regional director for Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Zebra mussels can be seen clinging tightly to the engine of a boat that was just pulled out of Lake Texoma in North Texas. If boaters are not careful, the creatures could contaminate another lake.
"If whoever owns the boat was to go down the road, these would not necessarily fall off; they would hang on tight until they got to the next boat ramp," Van Zee said.
Right now, Lake Texoma is the only lake in Texas with these mollusks. A lawn chair pulled out of the water and covered with the mussels demonstrates how this invasive species has multiplied. It's estimated that the population now is several hundred million.
"I think its a problem...a real big problem," biologist Bruce Hysmith said. "They are actually depriving native species of a source of food."
The mussels are also clogging water pipes, so this could become a costly problem.
Officials are warning boaters to be diligent and to clean off zebra mussels that look harmless, but are wreaking havoc in so many ways. Boaters could face up to a $2,000 fine and six months in jail if they are caught with zebra mussels on their boat.
Boat owners can use vinegar to remove the zebra mussels. A boat should be left to dry for five hours before setting sail again.