Beth Bear, aquatic invasive species specialist, seated left, and fisheries biologist Chance Kirkeeng from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department record location data while the rest of their crew sets individual mussels in the Laramie River on July 23 at the Fort Laramie National Historic Site in western Goshen County. The crew was working on a project to reintroduce the plain pocketbook mussel to the river where it was once prolific, both at FLNHS and at a similar site upstream of Grayrocks Reservoir where the last living example of the species was located more than a decade ago. (Photo by Andrew D. Brosig, Torrington Telegram.)
Teghan Kallsen, an employee of the Fort Laramie National Historic Site, reads and records registration and tracking information from a passive electronic tag fixed to the shell of a plain pocketbook mussel on July 23 as part of a project to reintroduce the once-indigenous bivalve to the Laramie River at the site. A handful of the roughly 1,000 mussels reintroduced to the river last week had the electronic tags that will allow biologists to track the success of the project. (Photo by Andrew D. Brosig, Torrington Telegram)
Volunteer helpers, front left, Beth Bear, Carter Gale, 9, and Tyler Gale, 12, get a lesson in plain pocketbook mussel placement from Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Stephen Siddons before trekking to reintroduction sites upstream of the bridge on the Laramie River on July 23 at Fort Laramie National Historic Site. (Photo by Andrew D. Brosig, Torrington Telegram)
TORRINGTON — The population of Goshen Country grew by about 1,000 last week.
It wasn’t a sudden influx of refugees fleeing natural disaster and there wasn’t a baby-boom.
Instead, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department crew was at Fort Laramie National Historic Site in the western reaches of Goshen County with a project to reintroduce a once-predominant species of freshwater mussel back to its former home.
The species goes by the somewhat unassuming name of the plain pocketbook mussel and its overall appearance somewhat matches its moniker, with a tan shell and green stripes a predominant feature. But what they did – and can do – for the rivers outweighs its humble visage.
“They’re kind of nicknamed the livers of the rivers,” said Stephen Siddons, the WGF Fisheries Biologist based in Laramie who conceived of the reintroduction project.
“They’re constantly filtering the water, removing organic [contaminants], even some bad stuff we don’t like, like e. coli and algae out of the water. They help to clean the rivers,” he said. “They’re good for water quality and they’re also food for other critters – otters, mink, raccoons, you name it.
“They’re pretty important to have around.”
The plain pocketbook mussel was once found up and down the Laramie and Platte rivers in Wyoming,…