BEATRICE — Carrying buckets and armed in waders and boots, a small team of conservationists arrived at the banks of Cub Creek at Homestead National Monument of America on a hot Wednesday afternoon.
Far from a fishing expedition, they were on an adventure of a different kind.
Over the course of about an hour, staff members of Nebraska Game and Parks and the National Park Service stocked about 1,000 freshwater mussels native to the water in hopes to see their populations bounce back once again.
Half were fatmucket mussels; the other half were plain pocketbook. They have been growing at North Platte Fish Hatchery for the past 26 months before being released into the wild to feed on algae and detritus while filtering out E. coli.
Tracking censors about the size of a dime were attached to 100 mussels of each species, allowing researchers to continue to count the population in a proximity sensor that resembles a gold metal detector.
For Dean Rosenthal, Nebraska Game and Parks Fisheries Division administrator, it's a neat project to restock native species back to where they historically found.
Nebraska had 20 to 30 types of mussels in the state's lakes and waterways before many were wiped out because of water quality issues and other environmental and human factors.
Joe Cassidy, a Game and Parks fish culture supervisor who is involved with the mussels project, said mussels are an important piece of the ecosystem like any other piece of the puzzle.
"You can keep eliminating pieces of the puzzle, or you don't have a puzzle anymore," Cassidy said. "We want to see little ones again, and we don't want to be the ones stocking them.
"But we want to put in moms and dads so four years down the road, we'll have natural reproduction, and things will be back on course."
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