Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

Our featured invasive species this month fits the definition to a T. It is not native. It is growing out of control in prime habitat. Its growth prevents native, endangered species from thriving. It causes economic damage to certain sectors of the local economy. It has resisted all attempts at control and eradication.

Like so many invasive species, our featured culprit avoids control and eradication by posing as an economic boon to certain segments of the human population. For instance, this week two wolves (native) were shot for killing cows (invasive) on an Oregon farm (featuring many invasive species such as European grasses, agricultural crops of many kinds, and other farm animals). The news reports said that others of this same wolf pack were killed earlier this year for the same offense. That’s what you get for trying to control an invasive species!

How about grass (no not the THC-containing variety, though it’s also invasive in most of the U.S.)? Good guess. The grasses that we plant here as lawns, golf courses, open spaces and such are mostly invaders. Once planted, they are tenacious. They can lay dormant in times of drought, heat, cold and other adverse conditions, only to sprout at the first opportunity. But we’ve domesticated several of the varieties (i.e. wheat, barley, etc.), and these and the grasses used for lawns are exempt from our invasive species laws.

How about cats? Dogs? Deer? Elk? These species fit the definition, and definitely cause lots of damage. Hawaii is thinking of declaring domestic cats an invasive species and coming up with plans for their eradication. You see, they prey on native, endangered birds. Same here. (But we don’t hear calls for listing domestic cats here, yet). Most household dogs are not native, and they eat just about anything. They scare native species, and their poop is a toxic mess that we have enacted laws to prevent its accumulation. And deer are everywhere in these parts. Not all are native, and of course they cause death and economic damage when they get in your car’s way. Elk are native, but cause some of the same problems. Though protected, they are constantly shot at. But no, we’re not talking about these animals either.

Remember, we’ve exempted humans from consideration in this column (see “New Beginnings” in the May 2011 HIPFiSHmonthly). Good guess, though.

Here’s a hint: think outside the box…

Still can’t guess? Well, here’s the last hint. All the species we talked about so far are either animal or vegetable. With a slight stretch of imagination, we can include mineral species in our invasive species lexicon.  Especially if they exhibit the same or similar characteristics as their living cousins.

Give up? OK. The invasive species of the month is…

…Retail chain stores (Vestibulum vinculus)! They’ve grown up due to disturbance to the soil under them (i.e. development). They’re particularly destructive of native habitat and wildlife, due to their spawning of paved surfaces around them that snuff out all life underneath. And their growth is truly impressive. After a long dormant period where only a small Fred Meyer and Costco and some strip malls on the highway in Warrenton existed, when conditions were right, these invaders really started popping up. First, there was Home Depot (subspecies Aliquam consequat). Lum’s and the Toyota chain of car dealerships (Currus toyota) even replanted itself about 5 miles from its original habitat in Astoria. And boy did it grow in the process! Costco, the national retailer (Pecto costcus), next moved a mile or so and more than doubled its footprint. The list goes on. Goodwill (Voluntas bonum) opened a huge store near Costco. Staples (Solidis officium), Dollar Tree (Arborus pupa), Petco (Copia delicium), Big 5 (Magnus quinque) – the list goes on.

And we humans brought them here. On purpose! Like so many invasive species, Vestibulum was moved here because someone thought it would be a good idea. As these invasives establish themselves and grow to encompass the Highway 101 corridor from Astoria to Seaside, think how much future generations will need to do to eradicate them. They will have sucked up most of the local economy, sending their profits to distant lands and hands. The wetlands that used to cover the area and nourish and protect its wildlife and environment will be gone, and will need to be restored. Countless other species will be extinct in our area.

But it seemed a good idea at the time.

(Thanks (or blame) to Google Translate for the Latin butchery.)

By Bob Goldberg

Bob moved to Astoria from Seattle in 2005, on the day Katrina hit New Orleans. He started writing for HIPFiSH in 2007. With a previous career as an environmental engineer with the Washington State Department of Ecology and a researcher at various companies and national labs, Bob tries to bring his scientific (i.e. objective) background to journalism. Outside the HIPFiSH world, Bob does programming on KMUN radio, sings tenor in the North Coast Chorale, tutors at Clatsop Community College, and helps with websites. He lives in Astoria with his beautiful and wonderful wife, his son and two cats.

One reply on “Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?”

The most offensive and obnoxious invasive species that invades the North Coast are all the Californians and East Coasters who keep arriving to live here and shoot their mouths off about things they obviously know very little about. For instance, there’s a guy who publishes stories claiming that elk are native to Clatsop County. They are not.

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