New Zealand mudsnails have been found in a tributary of the Bitterroot River near Victor. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) discovered the aquatic invasive species in the Mitchell Slough between Victor Crossing and Bell Crossing, along the Bitterroot River. This was one of three places the mudsnails were found this year west of the Continental Divide, marking the first time in Montana they were in the Columbia River system.

The other two infestations were not in the Bitterroot - one was at Beavertail Pond east of Clinton and the other at Big Sheep Creek near Dell. FWP officials said the small snails do not move on their own and were probably introduced by boats, muddy boots or fishing gear. The New Zealand mudsnails were first found in Montana in the Madison River in the 1990s, according to Trout Unlimited. They also were found in a Ravalli County fish hatchery a few years ago. That infestation was successfully disinfected and is not related to this recent discovery.

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Besides the statewide inspection stations, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks crews are checking over 300 locations, looking for all types of invasive plant and animal species in the water through October. So far in the annual survey, they've collected over two thousand samples. The good news - no evidence of invasive mussels in Montana this year.

The bad news - Red-rim Melania snails were found in the Gardner River and in a warm spring near Beaverhead Rock State Park. Most likely, officials believe the snails were from someone dumping an aquarium tank. There was a new population of Curlyleaf Pondweed in Big Elk Creek in the Musselshell River. That weed can grow rapidly and hinder water flows.

Again, make sure your boats, trailers, fishing gear, waders and clothing are clean and free of mud, plants and vegetation. Drain all water and make sure boats and gear are thoroughly dry before entering another waterbody. Never dump aquarium water, plants or animals into natural waterways.

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