Invasive Species Biology

Since the beginning of time, species have spread and contracted their ranges.

A variety of factors including weather and climate influenced their spread and movement. Arguably, one of the most important modern factors is human influence.

As humans became more mobile, as our trade routes expanded, as our practices changed the landscape, we influenced and likely escalated species spread. For instance, the exploration of North America prompted the introduction of hogs and the reintroduction of horses.

With the passage of time and the improvement of transportation, the world has shrunk, at least metaphorically. More people criss-crossing a smaller planet for a variety of purposes created more opportunities for species to establish themselves outside their traditional ranges.

Sometimes, as with the case of rapidly spreading kudzu, someone deliberately introduced it. Kudzu, with its almost exponential growth rate, was originally touted as potential solution for erosion and a godsend for landscaping. Saltcedar choking desert waterways followed a similar path. Imported red fire ants hitched a ride on a ship and landed in Florida. The anaconda population in Florida Everglades, is thought to have originated at least in part by pet owners who tired of the big reptiles and released them into the wild.

As a whole, the species have done what successful species do—exploit and claim their niche in suitable habitat. In the absence of disease and predators, they are often unchecked.

People faced with an ecosystem that seems to be tipping out of balance have done what people do. They’ve labeled the problem, in this case “invasive species.” By its original definition, an invasive species also known as an introduced species, is a species that is not native to a specific location, and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health. The definition has expanded to include any species that has spread anywhere someone may not like it to be.

Faced with a system that appears to be out of balance, humans have identified introduced species as invasive enemies. Armed with poison, guns, traps and any other means necessary, humans have gone to war against the invaders.

In the course of waging war, the soldiers ignore the inherent difficulty in identifying what is native. For instance, the ancestors of Equus ferus (modern horses) evolved in North America and radiated to Eurasia before becoming locally extinct. In 1493, the horse returned to North America with the explorers. This equine globe hopping raises the question: Are horses native or exotic to the continent of their evolutionary ancestors?

But instead of recognizing inherent flaws in logic and approach, the soldiers, be they researchers, regulators, managers or owners, choose to apply a single, focused solution to a complicated problem. An all-out attempt to destroy the invaders only rewards big businesses that produce the “tools of war” and throws the system further out of balance.

As proponents of biodiversity, we believe that all species, even those that are new to an area, can play a role in a healthy ecosystem. The quest is discovering the benefits of the additions and managing them so they don’t overwhelm any other part of the local system.

Latest articles

Read more about holistic management practices

Wild Horses are Neither Pets nor Vermin

The wild horse “crisis” is about ideologies, not biology. Western wild horse management remains aground on the rocks of the competing dogmas of horse proponents and horse opponents. One side wants horses “gone”, while the […]

Want to Fight the Feral Hog Problem in Texas? Start With $8k, a Helicopter and a Machine Gun.

“Feral pigs have become a problem for one reason: The food-safety agencies tasked to insure safe, wholesome, and affordable food have made them illegal to sell commercially. The commonsense solution is to put them back […]

How Texas Cougars Saved the Florida Panther

According to the article below, cougars translocated from Texas saved the Florida mountain lion, known as the Florida panther. At least two of those cougars were trapped at Circle Ranch, the West Texas ranch we […]

Wild Horses Benefiting From Dr. Jane Goodall’s Leadership and Work

“More about a humane, cost-effective, holistic and all Natural solution for managing American wild horses.

150 Goats to ‘Mow’ 7 Acres of Brackenridge Park

Goats are excellent at brush-clearing, as shown in the article below about Brackenridge Park in San Antonio.   Many so-called “exotic”, “non-native”, and “invasive” species are also useful in maintaining and improving habitat. These include […]

The Rules that Govern Life on Earth – with Sean B Carroll

The author of ‘The Serengheti Rules’ has shown that in order to be healthy, grasslands need (1) keystone grazers, (2) many prey species and (3) many predators. In this 50-minute video he explains these ideas […]

Life of Elk

Elk are Texas natives. Largely wiped out by 1900, they are poised to recover in far-West Texas, but need the same protection as other native game species.   NOTE: this post was originally published to […]

Restoring Bison at the American Prairie Reserve

Buffalo were the keystone grazing animals of the American Great Plains. At the American Prairie Reserve in Northeastern Montana, the plan is to recreate the world’s largest bison herd.   NOTE: this post was origibnally […]

When Goats Become Firefighters, Not Everyone Follows Orders

  The article below discusses using goat herds to reduce the frequency and intensity of wildfire.   At Pitchstone Waters, we use goats every year. Their favorite food is leafy spurge –  a rapidly spreading […]

See Why the Mysterious Mountain Lion Is the ‘Bigfoot’ of Big Cats

Much like the legendary Bigfoot or Yeti, the elusive mountain lion has also acquired its own mythical status.   

Securing a Future for Wolves in the West

Another excellent article by the Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC) the free market conservation think tank based in Bozeman.   This one is about how to address people and livelihoods while achieving the essential ecological […]

The Sounds of Elk

Most Texas elk hunters must draw permits in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico etc., pay many thousands of dollars and travel out of state for a chance to hunt free-ranging trophy elk. Yet, elk are native […]

Understanding ‘Wild Horse Fire Brigade’ 

As discussed in the compelling article published below, “Wild horses that are restored back into their evolutionary roles as keystone herbivores naturally protect forests, wildlife, watersheds and wilderness ecosystems, which benefit through symbiotic grazing by […]

The Life and Legend of America’s Most Famous Wild Horse

Picasso is a nearly 30-year-old pinto who still roams free in the Sand Wash Basin in northwestern Colorado.   

Grand Teton Cull Ends With 58 Mt. Goats Killed, Primarily in Park’s North End

According to the article below, the National Park Service (NPS) has decided to exterminate wild mountain goats in the Teton-Yellowstone Parks because they (1) are non-native, (2) “compete” with bighorn and (3) might infect them […]

Restoration of Beaver in Arizona’s San Pedro River

Beavers are a keystone species in desert ecosystems. See how beaver restoration is healing a degraded Arizona river and its Mexican tributaries.   NOTE: this post was originally published to this site on May 28, […]

Elk Restoration

This video on the restoration of elk in Kentucky and other Eastern states begins, “There is perhaps no higher calling for a wildlife conservation organization than restoring extirpated wildlife species back to their historic ranges.” […]

It Began as a Tool to Save Wild Elk. A Century Later, Feeding Threatens Iconic Herds

Here is a Washington Post article on the CWD threat from elk feeding. The paper says CWD was “identified” 50-years ago. The ‘rest of the story’ is that the  “identification” occurred in a Colorado state […]

‘A Barbaric Federal Program’: US Killed 1.75m Animals Last Year – or 200 Per Hour

As reported below, the federal “war on wildlife” is alive and well.  

The Once-Extinct Aurochs May Soon Roam Europe Again

According to the article below, restoring large wild grazers like bison and aurochs (wild giant cattle) will enhance the health of European forests.   Quoting the authors, “By disrupting forest growth, these mammals created varied […]

Gulleys for Grassland Restoration #5: Upper Pennel Canyon at Circle Ranch

Using a mountain gulley for erosion control and desert grassland restoration at Circle Ranch in far-West Texas.   NOTE: this post was originally published to this site on August 14, 2017.   

Join us!

Follow along as we manage the resources within our fence lines, but think beyond the box.