Thursday Thinking Works: Introducing Non-Native Species to the US Wild

Thinking Works is an assignment my little girl has to do every week for school.  This week it is touching on a subject that I think about often.  Should foreign species be allowed for import to the United States.  Like my daughter my answer is no.  Since there has never been a restriction of movement of animals between countries from times past we are suffering the consequences of their impingement on our environment.  We have to do what we can to prevent further damage to our native flora and fauna.

Sure it can be fun to have a "cool" new pet like a South American lizard or snake.  Or maybe you believe it will be profitable to bring a certain plant to this country for feeding livestock or an animal for it's skin or fur.  What happens when you can't take care of that "cool" pet because it's gotten too big?  What happens when your super profit idea goes bust?  Unfortunately for the rest of us too many times those animals and plants are left to do what they will in the wild.  I have yet to think of an example where what they will do is a good thing.

Here are a few examples:

Kudzu - An edible vining plant native to Asia was brought to the US in 1876 for the Centennial.  It does have it's pros in that it is edible, can be used by livestock as feed and is useful in preventing soil erosion.  Though goats find this plant palatable, really what won't they eat, many farmers found that cows won't touch it.  Over much of the Southeastern United States you will find blankets of kudzu over growing natural flora even engulfing and killing native tree species because it's presence blocks out the sun.  It is estimated the now wild plant spreads at a rate of 150,000 acres per year.

Nutria - In the late 19th and early 20th centuries nutria or coypu farms were developed in the US and Europe to cultivate the large rodent for it's fur because it had been over-harvested in it's native South America.  As the fur trade declined the unprofitable farms were left in disrepair and eventually they were abandoned or let their furry livestock loose in the wild.  This was a huge mistake.  The nutria has become a bane on the landscape the world over destroying and laying waste to native flora, marshlands, river banks and displacing native animal species.

Python in a toilet
This was the least disturbing photo of the effects of released non-native pets, particularly a python, I could find.
photo credit:WalkingGeekviaphotopincc

Constrictors - You know - big frickin' snakes.  When Johnny can't afford to get a habitat big enough, feed the snake or is incapable of handling the sucker, what happens?  Either Johnny let's him go or he escapes.  Those of you in the South know that stories of dogs, cats and other small pets disappearing because of snakes are becoming commonplace.  Who hasn't seen the news reports of the python plugging up the toilet or the one who ate a small alligator only to be killed by it's sharp claws as it struggled to get away.  I'd be hard pressed to let my kids play in the back yard alone with the threat of a giant snake a possibility.  Again, since the habitat is ideal for the giant reptiles and there is little in the way of predators they are free to start breeding in the wild. So then we get more big frickin' snakes to eat our helpless native animals.  Unfortunately, we here up north are not free from the scourge of the released reptilian pet.  They are cold blooded.  Though they may not survive a hard freeze there are plenty of barns, basements and other hiding places to keep warmer during our snowy winters.

These are just a few examples of the hundreds of non-native species that have been brought to this country which are having a negative impact on native species of flora and fauna.  Our charge for this Earth is to take care of it and have the animals and plants in our subjection, but we need to manage that properly or we will do more harm than good.

How do you feel about non-native species of plants and animals being introduced or released into your area of the world?


Lucero De La Tierra

Original post on We Are Earthformed

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