(CBS) — Illinois’ meandering rivers can be a beautiful sight, but they need to mussel up to stay healthy.
Freshwater mussels help keep these eco-systems healthy, and they’re dwindling in number.READ MORE: Bears Set To Take On Packers For First Time Since Aaron Rodgers Told Fans, 'I Still Own You;' Jimmy Graham Says Trash Talk Is Par For Course
“We are losing them,” says Jessi DeMartini of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.
Illinois waterways were once home to 80 species of freshwater mussels, but 17 are now extinct and another 23 are either endangered or threatened.
“In the water world, everybody kind of needs each other,” DeMartini says.
That’s why in the tanks and basins of the Forest Preserve District, they are cultivating thousands of mussels to release back into the rivers.
The mussels are living filters, eating bacteria and algae that cloud up waterways.READ MORE: Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews Has Scored No Goals So Far This Season, But He's Motivated To Work On Game
“They take all that and they hold it in,” DeMartini says.
Mussels are eventually transferred to larger tanks, where they’ll grow to a size suitable for release.
They will be marked, some even equipped with radio transponder to track their progress.
The mussels have been nurtured along since last winter.
By fall, 9,000 will be released into the DuPage River.MORE NEWS: First Illinois Case Of Omicron COVID-19 Variant Confirmed In Chicago Resident