Invasive Species

Know Your Role in Preventing the Introduction and Spread of Invasive Species

Invasive species harm our recreational, commercial and agricultural resources by creating inhospitable habitats, and outcompeting native species. They also kill wildlife, damage boats and gear, clog water pipes and hydropower facilities, chew wiring, and have many other adverse effects on people and the things we value. Do your part to avoid introducing or spreading invasive species in Alaska or Alaska waters.

Identify Pathways

Learning how to prevent the spread of invasive species means first determining what are the entry pathways, or vectors, by which species are transported from one location to another. The vectors may differ, depending on whether an invading species is aquatic, terrestrial, marine, or operates in more than one of these realms.

Natural pathways include wind, water currents, and forms of dispersal in which a specific species has developed changes to its body shape or behavior to help expand its distribution. Human-made pathways are those which are enhanced or created by human activity. These are characteristically of two types: intentional or deliberate actions to move nonnative species, and accidental or unintentional means of moving organisms. Either way, invasive species can affect native ecosystems. Unintentional introductions can result in significant unforeseen impacts.

Be Vigilant

Humans play an important role in moving invasive species to new locales. When we spend time in areas infested with invasive species, we must be careful to avoid bringing them with us when we leave that area. It is essential that we inspect and clean everything that could be a carrier of insects, plant seeds or fragments, whole or pieces of animals that can reproduce asexually, and even pathogens. Inspect and thoroughly clean whatever has come into contact with the infected landscape or waterway: shoes, clothing, pet fur, fishing boots and gear, and vessels or vehicles of any kind. For example, be sure to thoroughly clean the tires and undercarriage of cars, trucks, all-terrain vehicles, and cargo vehicles, as well as boat hulls, holding tanks, ballast tanks, anchors, and lines.

Across the state, aggressive preparation for, and response to, invasive species will help limit the damages they impose on Alaska’s wildlife, habitats, and people. Learn what to look for, and how to report an invasive species if you see one: Remember the hotline number 1-877-INVASIV.

Aquatic Invasive Species: Crucial Knowledge for Anglers and Boaters

Alaskans and visitors need to be aware that aquatic diseases and invasive species can be easily spread from one waterbody to another. In fact, anglers, boaters and their equipment are known to play a key role in transporting these pests. It takes only one mistake to infect a new area. Think ahead, and save a watershed.

To protect Alaska's waters and native aquatic species, please follow these guidelines:

  1. CLEAN — Rinse and remove any mud, sediment, and/or plant debris from all gear, boats, and boat trailers, floatplane rudders and floats, and anything that comes into contact with the water. Separate all pieces of wading footgear and waders (remove liners, etc.) to check for and remove visible mud, sediment and/or plant debris before leaving the area. Use a stiff bristle brush to clean all fishing gear.
  2. DRAIN — Empty all water from coolers, bilge pumps, buckets, and wring out gear before leaving the boat launch or fishing areas.
  3. DRY — Completely dry gear between waterbodies or trips. Equipment that remains damp can harbor small particles of invasive species that can remain viable for weeks. If drying gear completely in not possible-decontaminate!
  4. DECONTAMINATE — Freeze gear until solid or wash gear in 140°F hot water scrubbing with a stiff bristle brush. If drying, freezing or heating gear is not feasible, use a 2% bleach solution to clean gear away from fresh water recreation sites. Spray or rinse gear for one minute. A 2% bleach solution can be made easily by mixing 2.5 oz. of chlorine bleach with tap water to make 1 gallon of solution.

    NOTE: Bleach solutions may degrade gear made of absorbent materials. Please rinse gear on land, away from fresh water fishing areas and dispose of disinfectants as indicated on the label.

Alert! New Footwear Rules

Research on invasive species pathways conclude that felt soled waders are an effective means for transmitting invasive organisms. The absorbent felt material can trap sediment and living organisms, including whirling disease spores, Didymo cells, and invertebrate larvae, deep within the fibrous matrix. Viable invasive organisms could be found within the fibers of felt soles even after various decontamination protocols were implemented. Furthermore, rubber boots and felt alternatives trap significantly fewer organisms than felt and can be cleaned, dried and decontaminated much more effectively. To reduce the potential for invasive species to be moved to or between Alaska waters the Alaska Boards of Fisheries and Game have enacted regulations prohibiting felt soled wading footwear use while hunting or fishing in fresh water in Alaska. See Sport Anglers Prohibited from Using Felt Soles in Fresh Waters of Alaska for more information.

The Alaska Board of Game has deemed invasive species a significant potential threat to Alaska’s aquatic ecosystems. Effective January 1, 2013, felt-soled waders and wading boots will no longer be legal footwear when hunting in Alaska’s fresh water.

Other Legal Requirements

You should also be aware of one other way that anglers and boaters can compromise the ecosystems they value: That’s through moving live fish, aquatic invertebrates (including legal or illegal bait) or plants from one place to another. These types of actions are against the law, unless you have gotten an authorizing permit from ADF&G.

It is also unlawful to release any live aquarium or bait fish into local waters. Read more about the possible adverse effects of nonnative species and why releasing pets or aquarium fish is bad for Alaska. Consider contacting your local pet store to see if they will accept your unwanted aquarium fish.

Preventing Other Types of Invasive Species

Preventing the spread of invasive animals is our best means of ensuring they don’t take over our valued natural areas and eliminate or decrease populations of native species we cherish or depend on. Non-aquatic invasive animals in Alaska include the Norway rat, European starling, and Belgian hare. None of these animals evolved as part of Alaska’s natural ecosystems and all have adverse effects on local wildlife.

Rules on Importation

If you are considering bringing a pet to Alaska or buying one online, make sure the animal is on the Clean List of Animals. Avoid ordering exotic pets off the internet or purchasing from websites such as Craigslist. If you see an animal for sale online or in a pet store that you suspect to be illegal or know is not on the Clean List, please contact the ADF&G Invasive Species Program Hotline.

Rats are Especially Harmful: Know the Law

Because rats are so destructive for wildlife, Alaska has passed stringent regulations (PDF 117 kB) designed to prevent their entry or spread. Many members of the Muridae (Old World) rodent family are illegal in Alaska. In terms of rats, it is only albino rats that are legal to have as pets. Check local rules too. Some areas such as Anchorage and the Pribilof Islands have passed ordinances aimed at keeping their communities rat-free.

If rats are infesting your home or commercial facility, or you’ve found sign of them on your vessel or aircraft, it is your responsibility to eradicate them and ensure you don’t inadvertently relocate them elsewhere. Eliminate free-roaming rats whenever they are detected. Eliminate rat attractants including shelter, edible refuse, and food. Keep trash and foodstuffs (including pet food and bird seed) in metal or other rodent-proof containers.

Avoid transporting any structure, shipping containers, equipment or supplies that could result in accidental transplant of nonnative rodents, particularly among islands. Conduct Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) planning if there is a chance your proposed activity could relocate invasive species of any kind.

Never release live rats into the wild, and never throw captured rats overboard: they are excellent swimmers and may reach land. Other tips for rat prevention and control are available in ADF&G’s state invasive rodent plan (PDF 2,291 kB). The plan’s Appendix H is specifically designed to help local governments and affected industries best prevent or intercept newly arrived rats, and employ effective eradication or control techniques.

Take Action Early

Whatever the species, preventing and controlling invasive species now will be cheaper than trying to restore species and habitats later. Taking early action may also prevent designation of some affected species as endangered, an event that could have economic consequences for Alaska, depending on location of the affected species.