Northland DNR officers stop North Dakota tourist with zebra mussel-covered shopping cartA North Dakota man had a shopping cart covered in zebra mussels seized by Minnesota Conservation Officers in Two Harbors.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Conservation Officers Kipp Duncan and Jen Muller pulled into a parking lot in Two Harbors recently and couldn’t believe what they saw — a shopping cart covered with zebra mussels resting in the back of a pickup truck.
“They covered the entire outline of the cart,” Duncan told the News Tribune. “It was pretty amazing to look at. I’ve never seen anything with that many zebra mussels on it.”
The man driving the truck, Bruce A. Hinsverk, 51, of Wahpeton, N.D., told the officers he was on vacation and saw the shopping cart next to two dumpsters on the Duluth waterfront. He planned to drive up the North Shore to Grand Marais before returning to North Dakota with the shopping cart.
Hinsverk apparently thought it would be cool to have on display at his hair salon, Muller said. What he says he didn’t know is that it’s against Minnesota law to transport or possess even one zebra mussel or other invasive species, let alone thousands of them.
Hinsverk was cited for unlawfully possessing or transporting a prohibited invasive species and given instructions on how to appeal the charge or pay the $500 fine.
The conservation officers took photos of the cart before locking it up at a DNR office.
Duncan said Hinsvick apparently found the cart between two dumpsters near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and the Duluth Slip Bridge walking drawbridge, along Minnesota Slip on the harborfront.
“He said he first noticed it while he was on a harbor cruise and then came back to get it,” Duncan said. “How it got into the harbor to begin with, or back out of the water, we don’t know. But we did find quite a few zebra mussels that looked like they had fallen off the cart where he said he found it, so his story checks out.”
Duncan said no one probably would intend to move zebra mussels from an infested waterway into a new lake or river. But that potential was there in this case.
“The real danger here is that these things were still fresh, they were still wet and squishy,” he said. “They were probably still alive, and they may have survived if they got back into the water somewhere.”
It’s not uncommon for zebra mussels to cover virtually every smooth surface in heavily infested water. There are photos of cars pulled from Lake Erie covered in the thumbnail-size mussels, and it’s common for anglers to snag into items in the harbor covered with zebra mussels.
Minnesota has been cracking down on anglers, boaters and businesses that handle docks and other water-bound materials trying to stop the spread of exotic species like zebra mussels. Heavy infestations of zebra mussels can kill native mussels, filter huge amounts of biomass out of the water, impact fish populations, interfere with recreation and increase costs for industry and water utilities.
The mussels, native to Eastern Europe and western Russia, first were discovered in Minnesota in 1989 in the Duluth harbor. They exploded in number in the harbor in the late ’90s and have since been found in the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers and several inland lakes, most in south-central Minnesota but also as far north as Pike Lake near Duluth and just last month in Lake Ore-Be-Gone in Gilbert.
Other prohibited invasive species in Minnesota include Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, silver and bighead carp, ruffe, round goby and sea lamprey.