Just because the snow flies in the winter does not mean that the work dies for those of us fighting invasive species. Here is a roundup of notable news that you may have missed in the last six months.
Feral swine in Clinton County secured the spotlight in newspaper, radio and television reports. Also known as Russian boar, feral swine inhabit more than 40 states, but are a recent addition to North Country fauna. Their rooting behavior wreaks havoc on farms and natural areas, and they carry diseases that threaten livestock and human health. These pesky pigs either escaped from farms or licensed hunting preserves or were intentionally released for game purposes.
Once in the wild, feral swine are extremely difficult to eradicate. Winter is the most effective time of year to bait them since food is scarce. Trapping efforts and landowner outreach spearheaded by the state Department of Environmental Conservation took center stage in recent months. Little snowpack, however, hampered trapping efforts.
Quick action is critical - the summer season brings with it the risk of multiple breeding cycles and exponential population increases. A new initiative is under way among DEC, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets and the United States Department of Agriculture to establish a task force to formalize a statewide plan to prevent further widespread destruction by feral swine.
In other news, scientists recently confirmed a sobering link between invasive species and a massive die-off of bats in the Northeast. Staggering winter mortality of several bat species, including little brown bats, started six years ago prompting studies of the cause of their waking from hibernation.
White-nose syndrome, named for the white powdery substance on the snouts of affected bats, is a fungus, Geomyces destructans, now known to be from Europe. Fungal spores may have been carried here on a caver's boots, clothing or other gear. This fast-spreading invasive fungus is responsible for the loss of more than 5.7 million bats, the ecological consequences of which are still being investigated.
"Ask APIPP" is a new feature that will address readers' questions about invasive species, such as identification, impacts or management, or solutions to combat their spread.
Submit questions via email to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP). Include "Ask APIPP" in the subject heading and send your question to email@example.com. Questions and answers will be considered for publishing in the biweekly "Eye on Invasives" column.
Winter also brought the opportunity for citizen scientists to conduct tree inventories searching for signs of emerald ash borer infestations. Winter is a good time to see insect exit holes or heavy woodpecker damage on tree trunks and limbs because there are no leaves to obscure visibility. Luckily nothing was found?- yet?- in the Adirondacks, but a recent detection in Dutchess County is the first infestation east of the Hudson River. May marks the onset of the flight season. Extra vigilance in the coming months will help managers know the extent of its spread across the state.
The New York Legislature has also been busy. Several proposed bills would establish safeguards to protect the state from future invasions. If passed, legislation would regulate the commercial sale of invasive species, prohibit the release of feral swine and mandate education about invasive species regulations in sportsmen publications.
From pigs to pathogens to forest pests, invasive species come in all shapes and sizes. The field season is upon us, and this brings opportunities to stop the spread of these and other harmful invasives -Are you ready? With your help, we are!
Eye on Invasives is a biweekly column that spotlights a top invader when it is easiest to identify. Hilary Smith directs the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, a partnership program housed at the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley. Find out more about this award-winning program online at www.adkinvasives.com.