Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is ramping up messaging about invasive mussles in hopes of preventing the waterway-clogging species from spreading through the state. According to Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research Director Norma Nickerson, the good news is the public is more aware this year than last.

“In winter 2017 we did a little survey of people’s awareness of this invasive species and what it actually does,” Nickerson said. “Then we followed up a year later, we just finished this up, to ask them if more people in Montana were aware of what is going on. The good news is that the answer is yes, it went up nearly 20 percent.”

Nickerson says there’s a pretty clear trend that younger age groups are less aware of the risks the mussles pose.

“For instance, 64 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds, 76 percent of 26 to 35-year-olds and 84 percent of 36 to 45-year-olds were aware,” Nickerson said. “It just keeps going up. The 66+ went down a few from the 56 to 65-year-olds, but they are the least active in terms of water recreation.”

Public knowledge is key to preventing the spread of invasive mussles as they can move from waterway to waterway by hitchhiking on boats, float tubes and other watercraft unless they are properly cleaned.