Pulling for Milfoil in a backwater on the Jefferson River Pulling for Milfoil in a backwater on the Jefferson River

Mosquito Madness and Muckgrubbing for Milfoil

  • July 25, 2014
  • Posted by Guest Blogger

    It started on a rainy Monday near Townsend. Birds were chirping, a gentle breeze was rustling the cottonwood leaves, and mosquitoes were IN OUR FACES. We stepped out of the rig at the Townsend FWP field office and into a sea of buzzing blood-suckers. We were meeting our ever-cheerful project partner Celestine for the first time, but we were definitely caught off guard by the barrage of mosquitoes. In between smiles, handshakes and how-de-dos, we couldn’t help but swat uselessly at the air and let loose some light curses. It was shaping up to be a rough week.
    The object of the week was to locate and hand-pull Eurasian Watermilfoil, an aquatic invasive noxious weed. Eurasian Watermilfoil (EWM) is native to Europe and Asia, as the name implies, and was gathered as a simple aquarium plant. Unfortunately, it made its North American appearance when aquarium owners began dumping old aquarium water containing parts of the plant into lakes and rivers. Since EWM can reproduce from a simple two-node fragment of the entire plant, it spread quickly and easily in the upper Midwest and Northwest U.S., and Ontario and British Columbia, Canada.  Its simple reproductive model allows it to take over large areas of water and create dense mats that crowd out native species. Though the effectiveness of hand-pulling is often questioned, any part of the plant that gets taken out of the water is one less potential new plant.
    Our areas of concentration for the week included boat docks at Toston Dam and Canyon Ferry, 7 miles of the Jefferson River south of Three Forks, and a pond and section of the Jefferson Slough near Cardwell.  Luckily we didn’t encounter mosquito swarms as bad as the first day, and the time spent on the beautiful Jefferson River made up for the chest deep muck-grubbing of the Jefferson slough. By the end of the week we had pulled over 1,000 pounds of EWM and gained valuable knowledge of how a simple aquarium plant can become a huge nuisance when introduced to a new environment.


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