Invasive Species at Our Doors: "All Tricks, No Treats"

by U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

Things that go bump in the night aren’t any scarier than things that bump native fish, wildlife, and plant species out of Northwest forests, fields, and streams.

That’s the premise of a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-sponsored social media campaign launching Monday, October 1, 2012. The agency’s Pacific Region will use its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sites during the month of October to demonstrate how creeping, crawling invasive animals and plants can make local habitats resemble haunted ecological houses.

“Invasive plants and animals are one of the biggest challenges we face while protecting, enhancing, or restoring native fish, wildlife, and plant populations and their habitats” said Robyn Thorson, Director of the Service’s Pacific Region. “Preventing the introduction of new invasive species is the preferred method of avoiding these challenges but we need extensive outreach and education to be successful. We hope this campaign, which will be educational and entertaining, will do that.”

Dubbed “All Tricks, No Treats,” the campaign will highlight four invasive species challenges—one a week– that have plagued conservation efforts like a zombie invasion. For instance, one will address the species and habitat impacts of releasing popular aquarium or ornamental species like red swamp crayfish, red-eared sliders (a turtle), and hydrilla (an invasive aquatic weed).

Release of non-native aquarium species often occurs by educators and students at the conclusion of science projects or when classes end for the summer. Most people have no idea they are creating a potential nightmare scenario in local waterways for native species and habitats; one-third of the world’s worst aquatic invasive animals and plants are aquarium or ornamental species.

The campaign intends to raise awareness of such ‘pathways for introduction’ and offer audiences easy prevention measures they can take at home and in the classroom. It will use humor and horror-themed punch lines like “Invasion of the Waterbody Snatchers,” video clips, cartoons, even recipes in which invasive species are the main ingredient to make youth and adult audiences aware of existing initiatives and educational campaigns such as “Don’t Let it Loose,” “Squeal on Pigs,” and “Clean, Drain, Dry.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners anticipate that by connecting popular scary Halloween themes with information about a serious ecological challenge, the social media campaign will parlay an invasive species fear factor into action.

In the Pacific Northwest and Hawaiian Islands at least 5,000 introduced species have been documented outside their native range. While many assimilate into ecological communities with little to no environmental or socio-economic impacts, other introduced species, such as quagga and zebra mussels, can cause millions of dollars in damage to local infrastructure, require expensive annual maintenance, alter habitats, and imperil native species.

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