Lions and tigers and bears, oh my?
Please. The most dangerous species around today aren’t the stuff of a child’s imagination. Instead, they are the more insidious invasive species, which wreak damage that numbers in the tens-of-billions-of-dollars-a-year range: $138 billion, to be precise.
As an outdoor enthusiast, here are four invasive species you should have on your radar.
1. Sudden Oak Death
This invasive pathogen was first found in the 1990s in Marin County, Calif., and experts say it could eventually level 1,500 miles of California and Oregon coastline.
The bad news for hunters: If you hunt in wooded areas in states such as California and Oregon, this could be a problem, as it devastates whole forests.
Economic Impact: $8.3 billion.
You Can Help: If you live or visit an area where SOD exists, be sure to clean your hiking boots, vehicle, clothes and other equipment and supplies of leaves and soil before entering environments where SOD is not yet prevalent.
2. Emerald Ash Borer
The Emerald Ash Borer, as its name suggests, is a half-inch-long beetle that attacks ash trees. It’s killed up to 40 million trees in 21 states from Michigan to Virginia.
The bad news for hunters: Any threat to a forest’s ecosystem is a threat to hunters. For example, deers enjoy eating ash trees. A decline in ash trees could have a chain reaction.
Economic Impact: Between $1.8 billion and $7.6 billion per state.
You Can Help: The three simple steps you can take: Don’t move firewood, buy kiln-dried firewood and report the beetle to proper authorities whenever you see it.
Kudzu is a leafy vine that can run rampant across entire forests in the southeastern U.S., destroying their ecosystems. It now covers 7 million acres of the U.S., and has found its way north to states such as Illinois.
The bad news for hunters: It kills the plants that small animals in the forest eat, potentially putting a damper on the success of your next varmint hunting trip.
Economic Impact: $500 million a year.
You Can Help: Smother Kudzu with plastic wrap, shingles or other materials. Alternatively, you can treat with chemicals such as Roundup or cut off the rhizome, a knotty section close to the bottom of the root.
4. Giant African Snail
This invasive species first came to Hawaii in 1936 and arrived on the mainland 30 years later. A young boy smuggled three Giant African Snails into his grandmother’s garden. Seven years later, those three snails turned into 18,000. Now, they are destroying homes in states such as Florida, where 40,000 were collected by authorities in just 6 months in 2012.
The bad news for hunters: This snail can carry a parasite that causes meningitis in humans. And if you have meningitis, you can’t go hunting. Additionally, they also damage plants and crops, disrupting ecosystems.
Economic Impact: Estimated to be in the millions of dollars.
You Can Help: Inducing chilly temperatures or dousing snails with ethanol can help eradicate them.