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Photo credit: Paula Johnson


Endangered Mussels Rescued During Drought Are Returned to Flint River Tributary


June 19, 2001

Kyla Hastie, 706/613-9493, Ext. 36


Endangered species of freshwater mussels rescued in June, 2000 from Spring Creek, a tributary to the Flint River in Southwest Georgia, will be returned to the wild.
Sandy Abbott; Aquatic Ecologist, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Spring Creek in Miller County, near Colquitt, GA From Albany, take 91 South to Colquitt, turn north on Hwy 27 toward Blakley. Turn right onto West Street past the K-Ford dealership. Meet at the Government Building (2nd bldg. on left) for the short ride to the release site. Call Debbie Henry at 912/758-2496 if lost.
Friday, June 22, 2001, 12:00 p.m (Noon) Release event is dependent on water levels. In case of heavy rains, event may be rescheduled. Media can confirm date after June 20 at contact number above.
  • Freshwater mussels are among the most endangered animals in the United States.

  • The Flint River basin historically contained 29 species of mussel, but only 22 species are believed to exist today. Five mussel species are considered endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

  • In June, 2000, long stretches of Spring Creek, which is a hot-spot of mussel diversity in the Flint River system, went dry. Dead mussels, fishes, turtles, crayfishes, and snails littered the creek bed.

  • Fish and Wildlife Service biologists organized a major salvage effort to save as many of these species as possible, including several individuals of two endangered species (shinyrayed pocketbook and oval pigtoe). Over 1300 individual mussels were saved and transported to an aquatic refuge at Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery.

  • Biologists are still unsure as to exactly why much of Spring Creek dried up last year. Heavy use of groundwater and surface water for irrigation, excessive erosion which buried springs feeding the creek, as well as the on-going drought all likely contributed.

  • The shells of the mussels that will be returned are marked so that over time biologists can monitor their survival and reproduction.

  • Biologists will snorkel the area to see if any endangered mussels have been able to repopulate the area and to make sure the released mussels are properly placed in the substrate.

  • Mussels are an important part of river and stream ecosystems. They are excellent indicators of water quality, and are part of the food chain. Mussels also have historical significance. Mussels were a food source for Native Americans and Civil War soldiers, and prior to the proliferation of plastics in the 1950s buttons were made of pearly mussel shells.

Endangered mussels, biologists snorkeling, scenic views of Spring Creek.

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit http://southeast.fws.gov.

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Atlanta, GA 30345

Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

2001 News Releases

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