We’ve got a little quiz for you about invasive reptiles and amphibians. You hear a lot about invasive critters when they first arrive, like the snakehead fish a few years back. But once they settle in and the damage they cause becomes routine, they may drift out of the headlines. That’s the case with some of these animals.
- What are the four most common ways that non-native reptiles and amphibians are introduced to an area?
Ships: Ships can carry aquatic organisms in their ballast water.
Wood products: Animals can get into wood, shipping palettes and crates that are shipped around the world.
Ornamental plants: Some ornamental plants hide reptiles and amphibians that can escape into the wild and become invasive.
Pet trade: Some invasive species were pets released intentionally or accidentally.
- Name an invasive amphibian that is native to Fairfax County but is impacting the west coast. What are some of the possible ways it was introduced there?
American Bull Frog: Possible ways it moved west are accidental introduction during trout stockings; through the aquarium trade; for sport hunting; for pest control. Garden Centers around the United States sell bullfrog tadpoles.
- What are some of the negative effects invasives cause on our native reptiles and amphibians?
Invasive species harm wildlife in many ways. When a new and aggressive species is introduced into an ecosystem, it might not have any natural predators or controls. It can breed and spread quickly, taking over an area. Native wildlife may not have evolved defenses against the invader, and they may not be able to compete for food and shelter with a species that has no predators to control its population.
- Name the only nonnative reptile in Fairfax County that has made some of the 100 most invasive species lists.
Red Eared Slider. This turtle is now found in every body of water in Fairfax.
- How can local establishments who sell animals help prevent invasive problems? What are some of the ways you can help prevent nonnative reptiles and amphibians from being introduced to Fairfax County?
Local businesses can educate buyers about the life expectancy of animals (turtles live a long time), the size they’ll reach, and review with customers the state law that forbids the release of pets. Don’t purchase reptiles and amphibians as pets. Educate yourself about native wildlife. The CDC has information about turtles and disease.
Author Tony Bulmer is a naturalist and the senior interpreter at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. Anne Cissel, the Deputy Public Information Officer for the Fairfax County Park Authority, contributed to the blog.