The land of 10,000 lakes is under attack. Invasive species are spreading from lake to lake, and the FOX 9 Investigators examined DNR tickets to see who's responsible and where they're getting caught.
Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources has handed out more than a 1,000 warnings to boaters since January of 2012, and 800 people got citations that included fines of up to a $100.
Even so, it's still happening after years of pounding home the message that pests like milfoil and zebra mussels hitchhike from one lake to another on boats and trailers. If given the chance, just two inches of milfoil can overrun a lake. Sometimes it can pack a double whammy and come accessorized with zebra mussels.
The FOX 9 Investigators analyzed tickets from 2012 to see who's breaking Minnesota's aquatic invader laws. People of all ages have been caught, but folks from Lakeville made up the largest group of violators. A total of 41 residents of Lakeville got either warnings or tickets. Duluth was second highest with 31.
Prior Lake tops the list of where offenders are getting caught. Lake Minnetonka is next, followed by Brainerd's Gull Lake and the Mississippi River. Unless more people are careful, there's no telling if this invasion will ever end.
Yet, even after getting a warning or a fine, some people still don't get it. There were six individuals who have been caught more than once this year, and one had a ticket trifecta. Why the repeated violations?
"I guess I was ignorant of the law the first couple of times," Dan Zitzloff told the FOX 9 Investigators.
In March, he got a warning from the DNR for not removing the drain plug from his boat. In April, Zitzloff got another warning for a similar violation. The DNR stopped him again in June, and he was fined for transporting his boat with water in the "live well."
The DNR has 160 officers out in the field trying to put the brakes on the aquatic invasion. This year, they spent 15,000 hours writing out warning tickets and citations.