Texas Horn Shell
Texas Horn shell Mussel Survey Working together! On a hot summer day in August, I had the privilege of joining the CEHMM biologists when they partnered with Miami University, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to survey for Texas Horn shell mussels in the Black River. Planning for the mussel survey involves contacting the landowners requesting access to their land, coordinating with the researchers and graduate students to identify a date and time for them to travel to Carlsbad. The date was set a month in advance. The plans did not account for the summer rain that caused the flow of the river to be unsafe. You see, mussel’s homes are not in plain sight. One must reach back into the banks of the river and feel around for mussels, many times immersing themselves completely underwater. We postponed our "early in the morning" plans to the afternoon when the water flow was safer. All work was conducted under existing permit authorizations and under the supervision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Arriving at the edge of the river shortly after noon, our CEHMM team met the researchers and the other partnering agencies. Everything we needed for surveying includes wetsuits, calipers, mesh bags, notebook, pencil, stake flags, and plenty of water, which were carried in backpacks. The researchers entered the water and began to gather the mussels. They carefully placed a flag identifying where each mussel was found—then handed the bag of mussels to those of us on the bank. The CEHMM biologist and I measured each mussel on the bank, recording those previously tagged, and tagging and recording the number on the newly tagged. After being on the banks, I was anxious to get into the water and participate in returning each mussel to its original marked location. I joined the researcher when he received the last bag of mussels and felt for each mussel after they were placed in their original home. It was an amazing and participating in scientific research to learn more about the Texas Horn shell mussel. I am looking forward to receiving the data showing how much the previously tagged mussels have grown since the first time they were measured. Some mussels have been tagged for approximately twenty years. The Horn shell plays a critical role in terms of the health of the Black River that we all know and love for its recreational purposes. CEHMM, a 501(c)3 organization located in Carlsbad, NM, administers the Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs) for the Texas Horn shell mussel and other covered species. These voluntary agreements allow landowners and industry alike to continue activities on the landscape while simultaneously implementing conservation to reduce or eliminate threats to the species Since the Texas Horn shell mussel was listed as endangered, CEHMM and partners have spent several years developing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Horn shell mussel. Similar to the CC As they are voluntary programs that provide protection from take of the species, and in this case, is a post listing option for those who were unable to enroll in the CCA. For more information about the Horn shell HCP, or our other programs, call CEHMM at 575-885-3700 or visit us at www.cehmm.org.______________________________________________________________________Emily Wirth and Karla Niemeier are the Executive Director and Public Relations Manager, respectively, for CEHMM,a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization located in Carlsbad, NM.