For some animals, there’s no such thing as a dog-eat-dog world. They rule.
Animals from around the world that stow away in airplanes, ships and the luggage of some smuggler become almost bulletproof when they make their way into the American wilderness as invasive species. Why? They’re new here, and they don’t have predators to keep them in check. Animals that should be afraid of a vicious predator aren’t. Invasive species eat like kings.
Living high on the hog, these marauders aren’t going anywhere. Unlike many native animals that are disappearing from North America — vaquita porpoises, monarch butterflies, bottlenose dolphin and such — invasive species are growing faster than wildlife and game officials can manage them. In many cases, authorities have given up any hope of eradicating them.
Here are 12 of the most destructive invasive plants and animals in the United States, a dirty dozen. If it’s on this list, there’s a good chance that a government official in an office somewhere is trying to think of ways to kill it.
These long, lean eating machines are terrorizing the Florida Everglades. Humans don’t have much to fear, but native animals had better watch their backs. Alligators are being knocked off their perch as the swamp’s top predator. People ask why these snakes are such a problem. Why can’t experienced hunters walk into the Everglades and kill them? Burmese pythons from Southeast Asia are so stealthy that even experts with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have a tough time spotting them, let alone killing them. Since they were determined to be established and put the squeeze on the swamp in 2002, deer, raccoon, marsh rabbits, bobcats and possum have declined by as much as 99 percent in some cases, according to researchers for the U.S. Geological Survey.
This bug’s march across the Midwest is not the kind of green movement that conserves nature. It ruins ash trees that provide durable wood used for flooring, bowling alleys, church pews, baseball bats and electric guitars. The bugs sparkle like a jewel with their glittery hide, but the nickel-sized holes they bore into trees are ugly, and the squiggly trails their larvae etch on the bark can make your skin crawl. They arrived in southeastern Michigan in 2002 from their native habitats in Russia, China and Japan. Since then, tens of millions of ash trees have been killed, and their numbers continue to grow.