Friday, June 29, 2012

The Return of the Pink Mucket: Endangered Mussels Released in Lower Osage River

Photo credit: Scott Faiman, Missouri Dept. of Conservation
Photo credit: Scott Faiman, Missouri Dept. of Conservation
Conservation partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, Kansas City Zoo and Missouri State University have released about 3,000 pink muckets, an endangered species of freshwater mussels, into the Lower Osage River in central Missouri.
The release is part of a larger effort to conserve and restore resources in the Lower Osage River that have been affected by the operation of Bagnell Dam, near Lake of the Ozarks. 
"This release is important because it augments a small, existing wild population of pink muckets in the Lower Osage River," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Bryan Simmons. "We know there is suitable habitat here, and we’re hopeful these released mussels will become established and thrive."
A 2005 agreement for the Bagnell Dam calls for a variety of conservation measures to improve aquatic habitat, protect and enhance aquatic resources, and reduce adverse effects of dam operation on the federally endangered pink mucket and scaleshell mussels in the lower Osage River. The measures were incorporated in the 2007 relicensing of Bagnell Dam by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The environmental conservation program is funded annually by Ameren Missouri and was initiated in 2008.
Simmons said the partners have been highly successful raising pink muckets at facilities at Missouri State University and the Kansas City Zoo. In addition to today’s release, almost 3,000 pink muckets were released last fall, each tagged so that biologists can track their progress. Additional releases are scheduled for fall of 2012.
Freshwater mussels are among the country's most imperiled native species. Mussels have complicated life cycles and depend on specific fish species to act as hosts for their larvae as they develop into juvenile mussels. Changes in water flow, water temperature, increased sedimentation and other impacts from operation of hydropower facilities like Bagnell Dam can lead to declines in mussel populations.
"If mussels are declining, it means there are problems," Simmons said. "The measures we are taking below Bagnell Dam will ensure the future of these mussels and the health of the Lower Osage River."
For more information on endangered mussels and the conservation measures on the Lower Osage River, go to