An elaborate project is underway to try and save an endangered clam in Iowa.The Higgins Eye Clam has been on the endangered species list since 1980 and is now found only on the Mississippi River. Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Scott Gritters says a loss of rocky river habitat and the infiltration of predators have pushed the Higgens Eye to the brink of extinction in Iowa. The Zebra Mussel came into the Mississippi River from Asia and it is pushing out many native mussels. Gritters says the D-N-R is trying to reintroduce the clam to the Cedar River near Cedar Rapids. The plan mimics a natural process in which the female clam deposits her young onto a host fish. The D-N-R is depositing or “inoculating” fish from a hatchery with young clam larvae and then releasing them into the river.The host fish, walleyes or smallmouth bass, carry the young clams around for two to four weeks before the clams hop off onto the riverbed to continue growing. Gritters says they hope to expand the program beyond the Cedar River by inoculating some wild fish from the Iowa River later this year. Gritters says it will take some time before they can tell if the program’s successful as it’ll be three to five years before they know if the young Higgins Eye Clams have taken hold. Gritters says the Iowa D-N-R is working with its counterpart in Wisconsin on this project.
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