Plenary examines the threat of invasive species

By Nala Rogers

Wildlife professionals everywhere are struggling against the threat of invasive species. At Monday’s plenary symposium at the TWS 23rd Annual Conference, three experts offered insight on this universal challenge, laying out policies and tools to exclude, suppress and exterminate species that don’t belong.

Priya Nanjappa with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies took the stage to explain the policy side of invasive species management. She gave a brief history of the laws that shape today’s invasive species management, such as the Lacey Act of 1900 that bans the transport of certain species. Current laws can handle some types of threats, but are ill-equipped to combat others, such as the rising threat of invasive pathogens carried by species often brought into the United States illegally.

“We’re still wrapping our arms around this issue in general,” she said. “We do need some better, more modern invasive species laws.”

Larry Clark, director of the National Wildlife Research Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture described some of the tools biologists are using and developing to battle invasive species on the ground. Inspections at borders can help prevent new introductions, but managers also need tools to suppress established populations. In one promising example, managers in Guam are killing invasive brown tree snakes with acetaminophen-laced mice. The dead mice are secured in narrow bait boxes tied to streamers that tangle in tree branches when dropped from helicopters. The methodology avoids deploying the bait on the ground where other native species are found.

“This is actually something that took about 25 years to achieve — to get that methodology, get that political will,” he said. “Now we’re poised on an operational landscape scale to actually do something about this in a meaningful way.”

Researchers are working to develop even better ways to combat invasive species, Clark added. One promising direction involves suppressing genes that are specific to the invasive species that kill the invader while leaving other species unharmed.

The final speaker, Erin Myers, a biologist with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tied the symposium back into the conference’s “partnership” theme, describing the partnership her team has built to combat invasive species on private lands in Florida.

“Tell your partners thank you,” she concluded. “Because without them, this would be a never-ending fight.”

Monday’s plenary symposium was sponsored by Wildlife Services. TWS President Gary Potts thanked Bill Clay of Wildlife Services at the opening of the plenary.

Several awards were handed out before the sessions began.

Special Recognition Service Award:

Evie Merrill.

Excellence in Wildlife Education Award:

Merav Ben-David.

Diversity Award:

Alix Pedraza.

Wildlife Publication Book Award:

Michael Conover and Rosanna Vail for Human Diseases from Wildlife, 2015

Wildlife Publication Edited Book Award:

Rodney van der Ree and Clara Grilo for Handbook of Road Ecology, 2015

Wildlife Publication Monograph Award:

Kevin Monteith, Ryan Long, Vernon Bleich, James Heffelfinger, Paul R. Krausman and E. Terry Bowyer for Effects of harvest, culture, and climate on trends in size of horn-like structures in trophy ungulates

Wildlife Publication Paper Award:

Virginia Winder, Kaylan Carrlson, Andrew Gregory, Christian Hagen, David Haukos, Dylan Kessler, Lena Larsson, Ty Matthew, Lance McNew, Michael Patten, Jim Pitman, Larkin Powell, Jennifer Smith, Tom Thompson, Donald Wolfe and Brett Sandercock for Factors affecting female space use in ten populations of prairie chickens