How to avoid spreading invasive species

Giant hogweed

Invasive species of plants, animals, insects, and pathogens are able to adapt and reproduce quickly. With few natural predators, they can wreck havoc on Canada’s forests, crops, and waterways, leading to irreversible damage and threatening our native species and their habitats in the process. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, this makes invasive species the second-most significant threat to biodiversity (after habitat loss).

However, cottagers can play a powerful role in stopping the spread of invasive species. Here’s how:

Wash your boat before you move it

In the Great Lakes alone, there are nearly 200 non-indigenous species—many of which you can unknowingly transport to other waterways on your boat. When you pull your boat out of the water, remove any mud, vegetation, or animals (such as mussels). Be sure to inspect the motor, trailer, and any fishing equipment, as well as to drain standing water and empty bilge pumps. If time allows, wash your boat using a pressure washer and allow it to dry in the sun for several days. The same methods should be applied to any personal watercraft, such as jet skis, as invasive species can hide in jet stream systems.

When fishing, don’t empty your bait bucket in or near water

With live bait only allowed in certain areas, this practice is also illegal in many provinces. (Keep in mind that you may also be able to freeze or refrigerate your bait for future use.)

Don’t transport firewood

When camping, don’t haul wood from one campsite to the next, as it may have unwanted hitchhikers attached. Buy locally instead.

Clean any recreational equipment used on trails or in woodland areas

Be sure to inspect your bicycles, ATVs, and hiking equipment for any visible mud, dirt, or plants.

Inspect Fido for wayward seeds

If your dog enjoys outdoor adventures as much as you do, make sure to give them a brush-out and a bath after a hike. Seeds from invasive plants can easily be caught in their fur or carried in the mud on their paws.

Don’t buy plant seeds or plants on the Internet

Instead of importing plants or seeds, choose indigenous plants and weed-free soil.

Dispose of pet fish in the garbage—not the toilet

Goldfish and koi can thrive in our waters, growing to be as large as a kilogram in size—and destroying native habitats in the process.

Destroy any invasive fish that you hook

If you accidentally catch an invasive species while fishing, it is your responsibility to ensure it cannot reproduce.

Report sightings

If you spot an invasive insect, animal, or plant, you can call the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or report it online at eddmaps.org.

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