Zebra mussels in Range mine pit raise questions

Zebra mussels are an ocean species that upsets the ecosystem of inland lakes. (PHOTO: Andres Musta, Flickr CC)

Northern Minnesota has been standing sentinel against zebra mussels for a number of years. We worry our freshwater lakes could be overrun by this invasive species.

Typically, however, we imagine the pests arriving on the hulls of traveling boats and trailers. That doesn’t seem to explain why they showed up in an Iron Range mine pit this summer.

According to an Aug. 10 report in the Star Tribune, a mining company found a mature zebra mussel colony in the Rouchleau Pit on the edge of Virginia, Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is investigating how they got there.

That’s a tricky question. No boats are permitted on the pit, nor is there an easy way to access the water. It’s a baffling chapter in the story of invasive water species infiltrating northern waters and the best strategy to handle that seeming inevitability.

Zebra mussels consume native vegetation and leave sharp shells along beaches. They also produce prodigious amounts of waste, causing toxic algae blooms.

They aren’t the only invasive species encroaching on Northern Minnesota waters. Eurasian water milfoil and asian carp also threaten to disrupt natural ecosystems.

It’s part of a continuing struggle to maintain balance in nature amid modern human activity. We can, if we try, but it takes only a few people to throw off this delicate equilibrium.


  1. This does raise questions, especially if you think of it in Art Bell voice.

    “Live from the Great American West… Something is raising questions… Something in the water…”

    My inner voice is pretty Coast to Coast, though.

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