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National Park Service Needs You; Help I.D. Invasive Animal Species

National Park Service

National Parks in this country are losing native species at an alarming rate and the National Park Service is asking for help to combat the growing problem.  

America’s national parks have been a haven for animals and people for hundreds of years, but things are changing more rapidly than ever as invasive species out-compete the locals.  Like proliferating pythons in Everglades National Park, invasive animals gain a foothold quickly if they aren’t stopped in their tracks. "Everything from causing loss of park wildlife to impacting visitors' enjoyment of parks by changing recreational experiences" says  Ashley Dayer, who teaches wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech. She is on the park service's expert a panel, tasked with docmenting the problem and looking for solutions.

Dayer has done a lot of work ‘citizen scientists’ everyday people who volunteer to help. She says, “Quite a few parks have what are called, ’Bio Blitzes,’ where folks get together and they spend a day or a whole weekend assessing all of the species that they can find within the parks. And so that can be an important part of the effort.”  It’s an app than can help naturalists, and everyone else, identify species they see.

The National Park Service is out with a new report that details the fact that more than half of this country’s parks are facing a grave and immediate threat from invasive animals. The problem began around a hundred years ago, but it’s been snowballing, so the national park service is putting out an urgent request, asking for the public’s help, helping flag invasive animals public land.  Dayer says preventing more non-native animals from gaining a foothold is job one. “An important part of that prevention is making sure that members of the public are aware of invasive species and know how to identify invasive species, but also take actions to make sure that they are not intentionally or unintentionally introducing invasive animal species.”

She suggests ways to do that: “So, that might be making sure that you never release a pet species that you have, that you decide you no longer want or, when you go boating, you clean, drain and dry your boat afterwards so that you're not transporting potential aquatic pests from one water body to another.”

The National Park Service is asking for people’s help protecting native species, hoping to enlist a small army of volunteers to document invasive animals spotted anywhere in this country’s 84-million acres of National Park land. With that much ground to cover and nowhere near enough staff biologists to handle it all, that help from citizens would be huge.

And there’s an app for that here. Actually, there is a couple of them. Here's another one.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.