Looking to focus your conservation and volunteer efforts? One good way according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is to concentrate on combating invasive species, those pesky predators from far-off lands. Following are a few unwelcome in the Great Lakes State.
Asian Carp. These dangerous foreign fish can grow to four feet and 100 pounds and have been known to interfere with boaters by leaping from the water. Since first being detected in the Mississippi River, the three species of bighead and silver carp have been found in the Calumet River, just six miles south of Lake Michigan. If left unchecked, they are expected to compete with native species for food and habitat and alter the Great Lakes forever.
Mute Swans. According to the DNR, Michigan has the largest mute swan population in North America, with more than 15,000 statewide. While accepted as the stuff of fairy tales and known for their elegant beauty, mute swans are not native to Michigan and can pose problems for native animals as well as surrounding people and habitat, say opponents.
Originally brought from Europe, populations are expected to grow about 10 percent annually and to compete with the native trumpeter swan for habitat and food supply. (Can’t tell the difference? Look for orange bills on adult mute swans and black on the native species). The state has begun controversial efforts to reduce the mute swan population, although supporters say more research is needed.
Rusty Crayfish. Originally introduced into Michigan waters by anglers using them as bait, these aquatic aliens are known for their thick, bony skeleton, oversized claws and rusty spots. A distant saltwater relative of the lobster, they are voracious feeders that feast on aquatic plants, invertebrates and insects and are considered a threat to the state’s native crayfish. Environmental impact concerns include the reduction of aquatic plant beds and a negative impact on native fish species that live in these beds.
One potential control, notes the DNR, may be as close as your cookbook: This catch is said to be used for a variety of tasty dishes. Uncover more about these and other non-native transplants — plants as well as animals — by searching “Invasive Species” at Michigan.gov/dnr.