Washington is home to 700 invasive species… and some are deadly

From Invasivespecies.wa

SEATTLE — It’s a right of passage for Washingtonians to walk forests or along beaches and admire flora and fauna.

But how many of us stop and think:

Are these plants and animals supposed to be here?

Feb. 28-March 3 is Washington Invasive Species Awareness Week. Throughout the week, residents are encouraged to take note of the more than 700

invasive and non-native plants and animals in our area, and how they contribute to the $137 billion dollars each year in crop and habitat loss.

“We  are really trying to protect native forests and farmlands as well,” said Sasha Shaw, a communications specialist with King County’s Noxious Weeds Program.

Shaw said noxious weeds like milfoil, tansy ragwort and parrotfeather all do damage to King County’s natural lands. Some clog important waterways – milfoil – while others, like poison hemlock, can harm humans.

A lot of times (hemlock) will get around the area people are growing gardens,” Shaw said. “Carrots and other plants look similar and it will confuse them and they can actually die from eating it.”

Washington State’s Invasive Species Council lists 50 priority invasive species of highest concern. The list includes:

  • Tansy ragwort – Common cause of poisoning cattle and horses
  • Gypsy Moths – Causes incredible damage to forests, nurseries and vegation
  • Zebra Mussels – Could cost the state millions a year and close down waters for recreational clamming. They clog drainpipes and change ecosystems.
  • Northern Pike – Harm ecosystems by eating smaller fish. Recently found in Lake Washington.

Shaw wants people to be aware that not every animal or plant you spot in King County and elsewhere is meant to be there. Steps as simple as cleaning your boots can help prevent their spread.

“Brush your boots when you’re out hiking, clean off your waders … don’t spread this around,” Shaw said.

Shaw said the easiest way to report invasive species is to download the state’s invasive app.