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LIVE 24-SEVEN


American Mink © Peter Thomas


Muntjac Deer © Norma Chapman


Grey Squirrel © Andy Karran


Harlequin Ladybirds © Andy Karran


94


INVASIVE ANIMALS


In a previous article, Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Senior Wildlife Ecologist Andy Karran talked about invasive non-native plants. This issue, Andy concentrates on their animal counterparts, of which there is a wide range at large in the UK, covering many different genera and families.


This article was inspired by the report of a Raccoon Dog in the Penallt area of the Wye Valley in 2018. I have to confess, I thought a Raccoon Dog was just another name for a Raccoon! Further research revealed them to be an entirely different species, and there has been a recent trend of keeping them as pets. In parts of Europe some have escaped and they are already known as a problem species, as they like to feast on local amphibian populations.


As was mentioned in a previous article, the last Ice-Age ended 10,000 years ago, at which point the UK would have been devoid of life. As the ice retreated many species would have colonised the UK by the land bridge before sea levels rose and we were cut off from the rest of Europe. This effectively formed our flora, and to some extent our fauna, although animals, particularly those with wings could still colonise the UK after this and do to this day. We are still getting new species arriving naturally (although it could be argued that the not so natural process of Climate Change is a driver behind many of these), with species such as Little Egret and various dragonfly species colonising the UK in recent times.


We are, however, focused on the species that have been introduced either on purpose or by accident to the UK by man and specifically those of which that have now proved to be problematic ecologically, economically (or as is often the case, both.) These are referred to as Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS). INNS can be defined as; “any non-native animal that has the ability to spread causing damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live”.


There are a frightening number of INNS animals out there in our countryside, potentially impacting on a whole range of habitats and native species. We will take a look at just a few of the more publicised ones: nHarlequin Ladybirds – Imported in to North America and Europe to control aphid populations, they arrived in the UK in 2004 and have since colonised the entire UK threatening the survival of many other insect species due to their voracious appetite, outcompeting natives for food and eating their eggs and larvae. They are highly variable with over 100 varieties recorded. They occur in Gwent.


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GWENT WI LDL I F E TRUST SWARM WE LCOME


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