Back in the day there was a TV show called The Invaders! It was a Quinn Martin production that told the story of Alien invaders. Sadly, this is currently happening in Montana. Alien lifeforms, not native to Big Sky Country, are moving in.
Invasive species are migrating here in all shapes and sizes. These plants and wildlife are not part of our ecosystem and may outcompete native lifeforms.
The Montana Invasive Species Council, a Governor appointed group, has released their current list of Invasive Species to Watch. This is a common publication that can be found for most states. Invasive Species are a threat to native species. They often have no natural predators to keep their population sizes in check.
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The recently released list includes nine species.
Bullfrogs are native to the central and eastern United States, but invasive in Montana. In addition to preying on native wildlife, they can carry the chytrid fungus that may infect other frogs and amphibians. A removal project is currently underway in the western part of the state.
Eastern heath snail
Found in Cascade and Judith Basin counties, the eastern heath snail feeds on and may contaminate crops as well as clog agricultural equipment.
Emerald ash borer
While not yet present in Montana, in other parts of the country the emerald ash borer has killed ash trees planted in urban areas. Officials have targeted firewood as one potential way the insect spreads. Preventing firewood importation from out of state is needed to keep from transporting insects and other pests.
Where feral swine have taken hold in the U.S. and Canada, they have been nothing short of destructive. Populations have exploded across the southern U.S. with extensive damage to cropland and wildlife habitat. Populations in Canada have come increasingly close to Montana’s northern border, and officials have deployed an early detection strategy to try to find them quickly.
Flowering rush is a reed-like invasive plant with pink flowers that can grow up to 5 feet tall and has been detected in Flathead Lake and parts of the Clark Fork River. Invasive aquatic plants degrade habitat and may block irrigation infrastructure. Officials say cleaning watercraft and preventing aquarium and ornamental pond releases is important to preventing the spread of invasive aquatic plants.
Saltcedar is a tall woody shrub found along the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. As it infests riparian areas the plant may displace native willows and cottonwood. It comes with a host of maladies, including increased soil salinity, high water usage and in dense stands, alteration of stream channels and floodplains.
Montana responded swiftly when larvae of aquatic invasive mussels were detected in two waterbodies in 2016. And while no detections have occurred since, the risk to the state’s waterways and the potential of hundreds of millions of dollars in impacts if they invade has led to the state continuing to remain vigilant. Watercraft inspection stations, promoting clean and dry watercraft, as well as testing continues to be the focus of prevention efforts.
A noxious winter annual grass, ventenata is found from northwestern to south-central and southeastern Montana. As a smaller grass it can easily go undetected, but like many invasives it can degrade rangeland and pastures and decrease agricultural production.
Legislators are only considering one policy bill this session dealing with invasive species. Sen. Mark Noland’s Senate Bill 293 would allow posters on invasive species to be displayed at Montana’s rest areas, creating another tool in the state’s publicity campaign.
These 9 species are not welcome. Some have migrated naturally while others are the result of illegal Bucket biology, or transport. In some cases, eradication may be possible. For other critters, we may need to find a way to live with them.
Like it or not, the Aliens have arrived!
Thanks to the Billings Gazette for info. On this article.