15 Invasive Species in the United States (With Pictures)

There are several regions where invasive species in the United States wreak havoc. Invasive species are non-native species that begin habituating in new areas that they aren’t native to. They can lead to the decline and extinction of many native species and destroy entire ecosystems, so they’re rarely good.

While many people think of invasive species like animals, there are just as many invasive plant species found in North America. These ‘intruders’ typically have no natural predators, allowing them to breed or grow unchecked. They also don’t support the ecosystems they take over and can easily overwhelm them to the point of destruction.

Let’s take a look at 15 invasive species found in the United States!

15 invasive species found in the United States

1. Muscovy ducks

Muscovy Ducks

Scientific name: Cairina moschata

The Muscovy ducks were first introduced to the state of Florida in their urban parks. Red around their faces are the most distinguishable trait for the Muscovy. The ducks were intended as decorative animals because of the unique hiss they have, as well as pest control for nuisance bugs.

The Muscovy became destructive when it started to eat most of the food supply for native Florida animals. They can grow to be nine pounds and will become extremely dependent on humans if fed too often.

This leads them to become more destructive, as they begin to get aggressive, towards people and other animals. They’re also known to carry and transmit diseases. People are free to remove these animals from their property on their own or hire someone to capture and remove them.


2. Nutria

nutria

Scientific name: myocastor coypus

Nutria is commonly called swamp or river rats because of their appearance and buck teeth. These animals, which can reach 30 pounds, were brought into Louisiana as part of the fur trading in the twentieth century.

However, traders released them when the market reached a decline, and they have since spread all the way to the east coast. Nutria will destroy crops and properties by gnawing through them with their teeth. The burrows they create can also cause roads, bridges, and more to destabilize.

California once completely eradicated this invasive species in the 70s, but they resurfaced in 3017. Putting out traps has proved to be one of the most effective ways to deal with these creatures.


3. Burmese python

Scientific name: python bivittatus

Burmese pythons can grow up to twenty feet and were first brought into North America to be exotic pets. They became invasive in Florida when numerous made it into the wild after a breeding facility was destroyed by a storm.

It’s unclear how many of these snakes were released from the facility, but they began to breed in the wild of the Everglades. Since they grow to be so huge, up to 300 pounds, they began eating several animals native to Florida.

They’ve been known to eat marsh rabbits, foxes, bobcats, opossums, and raccoons, which has caused a steep decline in these mammal populations. Florida has professionals trained to capture and remove these snakes from the wild.

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4. Carp

Scientific name: Cyprinus carpio

There are four Asian carp species found in North America that have been destructive to native habitats. These include the silver, grass, black, and bighead carp. They were imported as a way to control the weeds in canals and clean aquatic farms.

When they escaped into the Mississippi they began to push out native fish species by outbreeding and eating their food sources. Silver carp are even known to leap out of the water, landing on boats or causing physical harm to people.

Methods to erratic these fish include spraying pheromones to draw them into new areas, using poison, and altering eggs so they are sterile.


5. Cane toad

Scientific name: rhinella marina

Cane toads are a poisonous menace that has been destructive to Florida for decades. These amphibians release a substance that can kill household pets in fifteen minutes if not treated immediately, and they’ve been known to poison humans as well.

While these toads can be found all year long, they become especially invasive and dangerous during the summer months. This is when they start to breed in huge amounts and are likely to find their way into populated areas and neighborhoods.

Since these are not protected animals, property owners can either humanely kill or remove them at will.


6. Feral swine

Feral pigs | image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr

Scientific name: sus scrofa

Feral swine, commonly referred to as wild boars or hogs, were originally brought into North American in the 1500s. Settlers from Europe brought them for food, and in the 1900s people began to bring them over for hunting purposes. However, they are known to eat farmers’ crops and native vegetation.

They’re seen in around 35 states across the country and are especially a problem in the South. They have led to deforestation in Texas, and are known to carry pseudorabies and swine brucellosis. Putting up fences and adding guards animals has proven effective for many landowners.


7. Domestic cats

image: pixabay.com

Scientific name: felis catus

Domestic cats are a loved pet in North America, and other parts of the world, which makes it come as a surprise when people learn they’re one of the most invasive species. Domesticated cats can be traced back to Ancient Egypt and early Europe.

They were brought to America by settlers to be pets, but they have since become destructive to numerous native bird species. When domestic cats are able to wander, they can kill birds and small animals native to the area. Removing feral cats from outside habitats is one way to control this invasive species.


8. European starlings

Scientific name: sturnus vulgaris

European starlings found their way into the U.S. in the 1890s. Around 100 were released into Central Park in New York City by Eugene Schieffelin. He did it to pay tribute to Shakespeare, as the birds were mentioned in Henry IV.

It only took fifty years for the starlings to migrate all across North America and have become destructive in every region they’re found in. These birds are known to destroy crops, especially fruits, and contaminate food and water by getting into feeding troughs.

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Starlings are also known to spread histoplasmosis, a lung disease, especially to agriculture workers. In order to reduce the population, people are able to destroy nests and eggs as long as they haven’t hatched.


9. Gypsy moth

Scientific name: lymantria dispar

Gypsy moths were first brought to North America in the late 1800s by French artist/astronomer Étienne Léopold Trouvelot. Originally, they were intended to outproduce silkworms for textiles, but they escaped from Trouvelot’s home in Boston.

These insects then spread throughout the continent and currently pose a threat to over 300 species of trees and shrubbery. This damages the natural habitat for several types of wildlife and has increased the risk of forest fires in several regions.

Efforts to eradicate this nuisance animal have also cost the United States close to hundreds of millions of dollars. Trapping and using insecticides is one of the only ways to control this species.


10. Kudzu

Scientific name: pueraria montana

Animals are not the only type of species that can act as invasive and destructive in North America. The kudzu can be found across the southeastern part of the U.S. and originally came from Asia.

They were introduced in the 1870s in Philadelphia and can grow up to one foot a day each season. Each year, they can grow the length of 50,000 baseball fields, effectively swallowing wildlife regions.

To date, the best way these vines have been dealt with is by allowing goats to eat them, but they continue to be destructive to the areas they can reach. Mowing and planting new vegetation is another way for people have found to combat this plant.


11. English ivy

English ivy

Scientific name: hedera helix

Colonists brought English Ivy to the U.S. when they first settled, as a way to recreate landscaping from back home. However, the Ivy became destructive quickly and can grow up trees until they eventually topple over.

This invasive climbing vine is known for destroying trees, but it wreaks just as much havoc on the ground. It grows along the ground, smothering and choking native plants until only English ivy can continue growing there. This has caused it to endanger entire ecosystems.

Brush killers are known to work against English ivy and can help slow the spread of it.


12. Wisteria

wisteria

Scientific name: wisteria sinensis

The Wisteria plant, originally found in China, is considered beautiful, especially when in bloom, but that does not make it any less of an invasive species. It grows so quickly that after planting it, it’s extremely hard to manage.

It’s invasive in at least 19 states in the United States, from Texas to Massachusetts. The vines they create can grow up trees, buildings, and shrubs. Pruning these plants frequently is the only true way to keep them from spreading out of control.


13. Barberry

barberry

Scientific name: berberis vulgaris

Barberry bushes are often used by landscapers, but several areas in the U.S. have banned them due to how destructive they can be. They can be seen today in areas from Maine to North Carolina.

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The common barberry and Japanese barberry were brought to North America in the 1800s and have since become invasive to countless native plants and wildlife. In the areas they grow they will displace other native plants, and when their leaves fall on the ground it can damage the soil.

They have also become a common place to find deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease. Repeatedly mowing and cutting these bushes can keep them from becoming too destructive.


14. Butterfly bush

butterfly bush

Scientific name: buddleja davidii

The butterfly Bush provides nectar to bugs that pollinate plants, like butterflies and bees, but in many U.S. regions it’s considered a weed. It is known to push out several native plant species and can easily spread and grow in unwanted areas.

They are most commonly seen in the Western part of the country, as well as the North and Southeast. Since the butterfly Bush draws the attention of pollinators, they will ignore other flowering species, which leads them to decline.

While this plant is not destructive to creatures like butterflies and other insects, it can cause immense harm to native plant life in the regions where it grows. One of the best control options is putting a type of pesticide directly in the trunk of the plant.


15. Purple loosestrife

purple loosestrife

Scientific name: lythrum salicaria

The purple Loosestrife is beautiful like many other invasive plant species, but it still poses a major threat to natural habits in North America. It is found in almost every state and has been known to spread and damage wetlands, as well as animal species.

It will displace native plant life, which destroys the natural habit for several small animal species. By spreading, the purple Loosestrife will destroy food and shelter for animals.

There are no animal creatures that depend on this plant, and with no natural predators, it can easily spread into unwanted areas. Herbicides have actually proven quite effective in fending off this destructive plant.