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Lake, campground in Riding Mountain National Park closed after discovery of zebra mussel DNA

Parks Canada has closed a lake and campground in Riding Mountain National Park to the public after DNA evidence of zebra mussels was found in water samples taken this summer and fall.

Evidence of zebra mussels was found in Whirlpool Lake, according to Parks Canada

Parks Canada said while living zebra mussels haven't been found in Riding Mountain National Park, environmental DNA evidence of zebra mussels has. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Parks Canada has closed a lake and campground in Riding Mountain National Park to the public after DNA evidence of zebra mussels was found in water samples taken this summer and fall.

In a news release, Parks Canada said Whirlpool Lake, on the eastern side of the southwestern Manitoba park, and its campground area are closed until further notice as a precaution.

Parks Canada said while live zebra mussels haven't been found in the park, environmental DNA — described as "microscopic genetic traces that an organism leaves behind as it moves through an environment" — has been found there.

"Parks Canada takes this matter seriously and we are vigilant in our efforts to prevent the introduction of zebra mussels to waters in Riding Mountain National Park," the release read.

"Staff will continue to monitor the situation closely and take action if a positive result is found."
Parks Canada introduced mandatory boat checks at Riding Mountain National Park in 2015 in an effort to keep the park from seeing an invasion of zebra mussels. (Parks Canada)

The invasive species is a concern because if they spread, zebra mussels will choke out everything else in a lake because they reproduce so quickly, with millions of mussels forming carpets on the bottoms of boats and along lake bottoms, biologists say.

Zebra mussels were first detected in Manitoba in Lake Winnipeg in 2013 and are now well-established in three Manitoba waterways. They were detected in the Red River and Cedar Lake in 2015, according to the Manitoba government.

In 2016, Singush Lake in Duck Mountain Provincial Park was effectively quarantined after zebra mussels turned up in a water sample. Day-use boaters — those most likely to spread invasive species from lake to lake — weren't allowed to launch boats on Singush this past summer.

Parks Canada said the Whirlpool Lake closure also includes canoers and kayakers.

Further testing will be conducted in summer 2018 in Riding Mountain National Park, Parks Canada said.

With files from Bryce Hoye