Park Service Mission Undermined By Invasive Animals, Study Says

Originally published on December 4, 2019 3:52 pm

Invasive animals are posing a major threat to national parks throughout the country, according to a new paper published in the journal Biological Invasions.

Ashley Dayer, the study’s lead author, says her team received data from 81% of national parks and found there are more than 300 invasive animal species across the National Park Service system.

“And they report that only 11% of those invasive animal species populations are under control, and only 23% of them do they have plans for,” Dayer said.

Dayer says invasive animals cause more competition for resources, affect recreation and cultural sites, and can spread disease. The study cites, for example, Yellowstone National Park, where invasive lake trout “have concerned visitors largely due to the indirect impact their presence could have on birds and grizzly bears and associated wildlife viewing opportunities.”

“The scale or scope of the issue is large enough that they really need more capacity than the individual park units can bring to this issue,” Dayer said.

The solution, she said, is similar to how the parks are handling invasive plants. That means implementing a coordinated system-wide effort to detect and monitor these animals, in addition to developing partnerships with neighboring land managers and the public.

In the Mountain West, Dayer said the top invaders are the European Starling, the Rainbow Trout and the Eurasian Collared-Dove.

Invasive mussels are often mentioned in the study, which was published on Monday. On Wednesday, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Montana Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester introduced legislation intended to “slow the movement of aquatic invasive species, like zebra and quagga mussels, into Colorado, Montana, and other Western states.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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