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Reports of zebra mussels in Round Lake

When Gull Lake was listed as infested with zebra mussels in October 2010, it was a package deal: All the lakes in the chain also were categorized as infested with the aquatic invasive species.

So while recent reports of zebra mussels in Round Lake in the Gull chain didn’t shock an area invasive species specialist with the DNR, a fourth-generation cabin owner on Round was both surprised and saddened when zebra mussels were found Monday on a dock and in the water near his cabin.

“My cousins next door were pulling up their docks and found one on the post of the dock and then started diving around and found clams with the mussels on them,” Mark Norquist said Tuesday.

Norquist, of Minnetonka, a 1989 graduate of Brainerd High School, said his family was the first to build a cabin on the lake just north of Brainerd. The cabin is located on the west side of the lake near Highway 371.

“Just looking in the area we found about a dozen (zebra mussels) in 10 to 15 minutes,” he said.

With the zebra mussels infestation in Gull, Norquist said he had been paying close attention to Round.

“I’ve been getting emails from the president of the lake association,” he said. “The last update was about two weeks ago saying some studies were done in Gull that they found more zebra mussels, but no confirmation (of zebra mussels) in Round yet.”

At about that same time, Dan Swanson, DNR invasive species specialist in Brainerd, first heard reports of zebra mussels in Round.

“I talked to one of the watercraft inspectors about 10 days ago and asked about Round and he said someone had brought in vegetation with two zebra mussels attached,” Swanson said Tuesday. “And there was a pontoon boat that might have had (zebra mussels).”

He added that he had received a call in recent days from a cabin owner who reported finding a single zebra mussel.

“It’s not a surprise,” Swanson said. “When we listed Gull (as infested with the mussels), we listed those other lakes like Roy and Nisswa … Round was one of them.”

The level of infestation on Round isn’t yet known, and although Gull’s infestation has reportedly intensified this summer, that isn’t necessarily the case on other lakes within the chain.

“On (Lake) Margaret they (watercraft inspectors) said they haven’t seen anything,” Swanson said. “I asked the inspectors at the access and they said no. The population is likely low in some (of the chain lakes), but I’m not surprised they’re showing up. I knew they would eventually get there.”

Still, Swanson said the Round boat accesses remain heavily monitored.

“I’ve been on Round three times (this summer) and every time there’s been a watercraft inspector there,” he said. “A lot of effort has been put into it on Round. There’s been a lot of education at the accesses.

“It’s not like this lake is three feet higher than Gull. They (zebra mussels) have no mobility,” Swanson said of how the mussels might have found their way into Round. “They can move with current. But unless something is helping them.”

The DNR is asking that anyone who makes an AIS discovery:

• Place the specimen in a bag or other container.

• Take a photo of the specimen.

• Mark on a lake map or GPS the exact location where the specimen was found.

• Contact the local DNR office immediately to arrange transport to a DNR official.

• Email a photo and the location of the possible discovery to a local DNR office.

Norquist said he was yet to contact the DNR and that his cousins have the zebra mussels in a water-filled container and that he took numerous photos. And while Round is already listed as infested with zebra mussels, the recent reports would indeed be a discovery.

Again, albeit a sad one for Norquist.

“I figured,” he said, “that it would just be a matter of time.”

BRIAN S. PETERSON is a freelance outdoors writer based in northern Minnesota.