The winged floater mussel can be spotted at Arrow Lake. Photo: Bill Chapman

The winged floater mussel can be spotted at Arrow Lake. Photo: Bill Chapman

LETTER: Native mussels visible at Arrow Lakes near Castlegar

Low water levels revealing native mussels

Every so often when the Arrow Lakes are drawn down to very low levels, beds of native mussels are exposed to the air where they die. The most common mussel in the Arrow Lakes, the winged floater (Anodonta nuttalliana) can be 10 centimetres or more in length but we rarely see them that big because when the lake is drawn down, the mature mussels die and do not reappear as full size adults in the draw down zone unless they have several years to recover between draw downs.

We are currently experiencing a significant draw down and just today we saw examples of 10 cm mussels near Syringa Creek (sadly, all dead). Native freshwater mussels are widely endangered across North America because they are sensitive to pollution and fluctuating water levels. They are really neat animals and have evolved clever means of hitching rides on fish as larvae to keep from being washed downstream. First Nations people in some areas are reputed to have eaten them in great quantities as do some fish species such as sturgeon.

If you can get out to the lake before the water level starts to come back up this is a one-in-several-year opportunity to see the majestic winged floater high and dry on the shore. It will be several years before there is another chance as the populations will need several years of higher water to recover. Check it out. Take the kids for some fresh air.

Bill Chapman

Castlegar

castlegarWildlife

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